Artist of the Week

Matthew Carter

May 18, 2015

Matthew Carter (b.1981) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He was born and raised in Moline, IL, and received his BFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2005 and his MFA from Otis College of Art & Design in 2010. His work has been featured in the 2013 MexiCali Biennial at the Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA; Bolsky Gallery, Otis College of Art & Design, Los Angeles; California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, CA; Proxy Gallery, Los Angeles; and group exhibitions at CB1, JAUS, Shoshana Wayne Gallery and Coagula Curatorial, among others. He is represented by Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, where he recently had a solo exhibition titled “hellequinharlequinclown.”

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I’m currently working on a series of collages that focus on the aesthetic practices and media representations of John Wayne Gacy aka “the killer clown” and Albert Speer aka “the good nazi.” Both figures encompass the idea of the psychopath, but from different trajectories. John Wayne Gacy, as I’m sure  you most know, was a serial killer active in 1970s Chicago, IL. He fits the profile of your classic psychopath and was sentenced to death for his crimes. Albert Speer got his start as Hitler’s architect and later became Hitler’s Minister of Armaments, and was responsible for managing Germany’s war economy during the second half of WWII. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison at Nuremberg. He fits the profile of what is called an “Industrial Psychopath”. Speer arrived at criminality through his art and Gacy arrived at art making following his crimes. Both men had complicated relationships with their notoriety and public image following their convictions, but found ways to negotiate this for market gains and media attention. Maintaining a presence in the spotlight was just too tempting for both. Although there may be some sincere soul searching in their prison productions, both knew their freak show status was in demand and they delivered many books, press interviews, and paintings to a hungry public.

I know I’m conflating the two somewhat, but they make such an interesting pair. They each compliment each other’s fantasies and nightmares about themselves. In Speer’s case, charm could somewhat allow him access back into “polite society” and since he was such a good bourgeois boy and wore a white collar, he was able to achieve this to some degree. Even though Speer was ultimately responsible for far more deaths then Gacy, his banality of evil was much less taboo then the 33 rape/murders of his counterpart. Gacy could also be very charming, but he got his hands dirty. Speer had the apparatus of the Nazi regimen to do that for him. Since I’m working with comparisons, contrasts, and conflations, collage in the literal sense seems to be the best way to deal with these two men. Both left a huge paper trail so I’m diving in and having fun. The different forms in which their psychopathic nature and escapades were expressed, recorded and negotiated for a curious public are very interesting to me. I guess you could call it the commodification of evil or something. I’m going for the look and feel of Triumph of Will mixed with Texas Chainsaw Massacre…or at least I hope. If I had the money I would produce a super pompous BBC style documentary about John Wayne Gacy and then make a low brow A&E pop vomit bio on Albert Speer. Speer gets the sober British accented narration while Gacy always has a cheap keyboard playing in the background.

“Uncanny Valley” 33.5in w x 54in h. Glitter, acrylic, mixed media, wood and linen. 2014

Top 3 favorite or most visited websites and why? The website question cracks me up. I’ve read through a bunch of your interviews and everyone is so polite and professional about answering this question. Everybody knows the Internet is a smorgasbord of smut. So let’s face it, when you go home and draw the blinds the Internet is not a polite place. Netflix because I don’t have cable. YouTube because it can satisfy any need at anytime and I don’t have cable. Google because who can survive without it and of courses the bread and butter of any bored semi-heteronormative male subject with an ass fetish, the whimsical and titillating

“Harlequin Parade” 33.5in w x 54in h. Glitter, acrylic, mixed media, wood and linen. 2014

If you were a drink what drink would you be? Well I’m a complicated guy. I can be tuff like an Irish Car Bomb, romantic like Sex on the Beach and sentimental like an Old Fashion, but no matter what mood I’m in I’ll always have a Fuzzy Navel.

What are you reading right now? I just finished reading Charles Bukowski’s Women (completely self-indulgent trash but also equally beautiful at times), before that was Freewheeling Frank – Secretary of the Hells Angles (completely self-indulgent trash but also equally beautiful at times). Before that was Albert Speer Inside the Third Reich (completely self-serving trash but also equally beautiful at times).  I’ve been on a memoirs kick as of recent. The last “art smart” thing I read was the Philosophy of Horror by Noel Carroll. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a comprehensive deconstruction of the horror genre. Your highlighter will run dry with that one.

“Untitled” 34in w x 52.5in h. Glitter, acrylic, mixed media, wood and linen. 2014

What artists are you interested in right now? Mike Kelley for sure. I recently saw his retrospective over the summer at MOCA. It was amazing to see all those iconic works in person and under one roof. To be that smart, versatile and almost always with profound humor is where it’s at for me. I spent 6 hours at the show and bought a T-shirt. I also really love Marsden Hartley. He was a great bridge between European Modernism and American folk and his paintings are truly incredible in person. I’m also super hot for Isa Genzken and Thomas Hirschhorn! Can’t get enough. Other major influences for me are the rapper/producer EL-P, the country rock god, Gram Parsons and the comedy duo of Bob and David from Mr. Show. All have informed my aesthetic and approach to art making. I’m also going to go out on a limb and credit Zak Bagans. Zak Bagans is the lead paranormal investigator on the reality tv show Ghost Adventures. His narration style is very hyperbolic and a few years back I started a series of sculptures based off his quotes. The sculptures set out to be literal manifestations of his language. Without Zak I would still be flipping burgers.

“Pogo” 12in w x 16 h. Glitter, acrylic, mixed media, wood and linen. 2014

Can you share one of the best reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? In 2008 I received the Children’s Choice Award at the 32nd Annual Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition at the Augustana College Art Museum. I got my name in the local paper and a cash prize of $50. Also last summer Christopher Knight wrote a very kind review in the LA Times of my first solo exhibition at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. It felt good to get my name in the local paper again.

Describe your current studio. I rent a small studio space within a medium sized warehouse in Inglewood, CA. The warehouse is leased by the artist Martin Durazo, who uses it as his headquarters. It is furnished with a hot tub, disco ball, shuffleboard, and tiki bar. Martin and I each take turns being bad influences on each other. The history of the space is true LA. During WWII it was a ball bearings factory. During the 70’s and 80’s it was a porn studio. In the 90’s some skater punk collective rented the place and now it is us, but back to my private studio. It is your typical messy space. Overcrowded with paint and cut-ups all over the floor, reference photos pinned all over the walls and finished or abandoned projects leaned in one corner or the other. 400 square feet of generic insanity.

“Five Stacks of Death, Dread and Darkness” Glitter, hair, enamel paint and mixed media, 27″h x 30″w x 30″d, 2012

How long have you lived in LA and what brought you there? I have lived in LA on and off since 2005. I came out here right after I got my BFA. One of my best friends had moved out the year before and my sister was plotting the trip too. I was in Southern Illinois at the time and was aching to get out of the mid-west so the time was ripe. I wanted to be an artist and there was no contemporary art scene where I was, so I knew I needed to make the jump into the big city. LA had the reputation and more importantly some friendly faces. I now know I don’t want to die in LA, but for the interim it will have to do.

What were you like in high school? I was probably much funnier in high school than I am now. Also thinner of course, and like many teenagers a little more perverse too. 18/19 was probably my peak of funny and perverse. I’ve managed to carry over some good teenage angst into my 30’s and I’m very much like who I was then, although my haircut has improved. My guru/massage therapist told me I was reliving something that happened to me when I was 18 or 19. I think she is right. 2015 feels very much like the year 2000.

“Ninety Acres of Property Filled With a Sinister Past” Glitter, hair, enamel paint and mixed media, 23”h x 59”w x 51”L, 2013