Give back to the art what the power took from him could be one of the mottos that guide the projects of Mateo Maté. But since “great art” has along the history been venal, easily bribed, an instrument of propaganda…, its restitutions can not but be ironic.
Just as the concept of “camouflage” had served the artist to establish correspondences between the Impressionist landscape and the mimetic tactics of military power, he now takes the definition of “canon” in its broadest sense (aesthetic, political, moral, religious) indicating (and undoing) the old alliances between art and social control.
For centuries, plaster castings of ancient Greek sculptures, which in turn are known only by Roman copies, have formed the students of the fine arts schools. These models are engraved in the shared subconscious, barely noticing the extent to which they influence our mental and aesthetic precepts.
From the classic canon of ideal beauty, ergo goodness and supreme truth (following the Platonic triad), through the apostolic roman moral canon, and in secular modernity, to canon law, the normative body has been modeled in the image and likeness of the unifying codes of each historical moment. It is curious how little that model has changed, from the Greek to the advertising.
Maté, as another student, took the course of plaster casting techniques taught at the San Fernando Academy in Madrid, but in his hands the models were slightly (about 30 grams) recast.
Thus, the Discobolo has filled the lips and flattened the nose, also making Africans the features of the venus of Antonio Canova. Adonis has gained some roll of fat and the canonical curves of Venus (the Esquiline) harmonize with the roundness of her pregnancy.
The Spinario is now a beautiful pubescent, the pectorals of the Athlete with Disc have lost with age the muscular smoothness of yesteryear, and the Belvedere torso has been fused with an equine bust.
Continuing with the hybrids but separating them of the chimeric halo to engage them in lively debates on sexual diversity, he has fused the Venus de Milo with the Doryphore of Polyclète.
It is time for the “sleeping hermaphrodite” to get up from the soft mattress on which Bernini laid him down, and separate himself from his mythological progenitors (Hermes and Aphrodite). Mateo Maté makes the hermaphrodite an emblem of the openness towards gender nomadism.
Maté has transformed the exhibition hall into a particular labyrinth of statues. Each crossroads confronts us with the transgression of a certain canon, so if the labyrinth is traditionally understood as an initiation journey, we intuit that Maté invites us to unlearn what has been learned, to start us off again.
Sala Alcalá 31, Madrid
until 23th July 2017