I met Matthew Mahler through my brother Dan. We both had the extreme fortune of attending Smithtown High School, on Long Island. Smithtown’s art program is incredible, providing exposure for students as young as 13 to figure drawing, challenging teaching and the idea that art is far more than an easy credit.
Over the years, I’ve seen Mr. Mahler’s work progress… first, painterly, abstract, heavy . Today — geometrical, fantastical… with a risque color palette.
After the jump, an interview with the talented, passionate artist boasting a love/hate relationship with New York City.
Matthew Mahler, who is he now, who was he, who will he be?
I was born in the suburbs of Long Island, and currently live in Queens, with a studio in Brooklyn, NY. I’m a painter/sculptor and co-founder of an experimental project space called Small Black Door in Ridgewood, NY. I will be…respected for elevating painting to the next level.
Your art described in one sentence…
My work defines the transition from analog to digital thinking, and embraces the timeless qualities of both by creating a succinct visual language.
Your three biggest inspirations, people, places or things?
Music is probably my biggest source of inspiration as I am often able to make a direct connection between my visual language and the aural language of various artists I hear. I have an intense love/hate relationship with New York City in general as I feel “it” is out to break us all down, yet somehow New Yorkers find a way to shine through to conquer adversity. The internet consistently amazes me by its ability to involve everyone who has access to it. It doesn’t discriminate and really creates for a dynamic, un-definable dialogue between its users.
What type of material/medium do you use?
I paint with acrylic on canvas and recently have been working with VHS tapes and cassette tapes to make some pretty rad sculptures.
What is your painting process?
Having come from a strong drawing background, I make a lot of simple line studies that usually dictate my painting process. Once on canvas, I work similarly to many abstract painters; adding and subtracting imagery in an intuitive fashion.
How long does a piece take you to complete?
Each piece is different, and it depends on size and my obsession with the image.
Where do your ideas come from?
My current body of work started as a way for me to explore my earliest experiences with abstraction; a time in my life before I had any understanding of art history or criticism. Ultimately my paintings have come to reflect my interest in skateboard graphics, rock album covers an Abstract Expressionism.
Your early work was quite painterly, and over the years you have become more precise with your marks and composition, how did this change occur?
I realized I was good at “making” things, but lacked the content I needed to be a contributing artist. My first critiques at grad school served to break my already weak connection to gestural abstraction and over time I was able to organically arrive at the place that I’m at now. I always wanted to make sincere and relevant work and think my current body is the closest I’ve come thus far.
One celebrity you want to collect your work….
I guess anyone who has a serious collection would be cool. M.I.A? I think she’s pretty art conscious…and generally awesome.
Ten years from today, you will be….
Making art, teaching at a university and generally just living the “American Dream”. (B: Every time I see the “American Dream” I think of Dr. Gonzo.)
Necessary in order to contextualize the society and culture around us.
— Thank you for a great interview Matt.
Queens, New York