Matt Mignanelli

Matt Mignanelli Interview - By Steven Cox

HUNTED PROJECTS is delighted to present Matt Mignanelli, a New York based painter who's recent solo shows range from Recoat Gallery in Glasgow to Medicine Agency in San Francisco.  His work has been featured in numerous high-profile publications such as GQ, Juxtapoz, Time Out: Chicago, Vice Magazine and Dirty Magazine, to name a few.  It has been a great opportunity for HUNTED PROJECTS and we do hope that you enjoy discovering more about Matt and his work.

Tell us a little about yourself and artistic background…

MM: I am a painter based in New York City. I focus mainly on abstraction, painting undefined environments. Originally I’m from Providence, RI and I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2005. In 2011 I was an artist-in-residence at the Vermont Studio Center.

How did you get into making your artworks?

MM: Painting has always been my primary pursuit; I also draw quite a bit but mainly for the purpose of making paintings. Flat planes of color were always of great interest to me, creating a simplification of surfaces. The works I am making now developed out of my earlier works, but have become more minimal and almost magnifications of the larger environments I was making in the past.

What is it about geometric abstraction that keeps you inspired?

MM: The visual language that is geometric abstraction is inspiring because it seems very natural and familiar to me. My paintings are very much informed by my surroundings; the hard edges and angles that make up the urban landscape, the man-made. It is the way in which I see things, and it’s really visually pleasing to me.

I see that your work has shifted from a cartoon inspired aesthetic to a more considered minimal geometric format, can you discuss this shift within your work and how this gradually occurred?

MM: The earlier works were very colorful, busy, and they had a lot of energy. Now that I look back on those works they feel very honest to who I was at the time. As the work progressed I slowly began stripping things away, making smaller paintings that focused on elements from larger works. These were pivotal and pushed me forward, they allowed me to take chances I wouldn’t have in larger works at the time. As the paintings became more minimal so did the color, which led me to paint mostly monochromatically. The push to move into working with only blacks and greys came as I searched for more purity in the work. I feel that these latest paintings are brutally honest.

Can you discuss some of your influences and inspirations behind your work?

MM: The urban landscape greatly inspires me. The structure, architectural elements, and their relationship with light play a major role in informing my work. My studio is in Bushwick, Brooklyn and it’s all industrial warehouses, scrap metal processing, steel work, car repair garages, and restaurant equipment manufacturing. The work ethic and physical labor that surrounds me daily has really influenced my studio practice and paintings.

I use a lot of industrial materials; house paint, house painting brushes, industrial primers. These materials have always been involved in my work, but even more so recently. I love that these materials reference my subject matter, and undeniably the Abstract Expressionists.

One of my favorites has always been Guston, his work and writings have had an impact on me. I’ve read a lot of transcripts from his lectures at the New York Studio School and his thoughts on painting have been influential.

Barnett Newman’s paintings have really spoken to me as well. His approach to painting was bold and daring. There is a certain stillness in some of his works that I connect with.

What do you think about the current New York Art scene?

MM: There are a lot of great things happening in New York right now. The Lower East Side has had a boom of younger galleries whose programs have been exciting. Bushwick and Greenpoint both now have more studios than you’d like to think about, but there is work being produced in Brooklyn that is at the forefront of the art world. Being surrounded by work of that caliber is never a bad thing, but I think you can never truly see it for what it is when you live and work here. Everyone is just doing what they do.

I’m aware that you had exhibitions at Recoat Gallery in 2009 and 2010, would you like to speak about your experience with Scotland?

MM: Scotland is great. I had an absolute blast while I was there for the exhibition, and thanks to Amy and Ali at Recoat I felt I had quite a well-rounded experience. They hosted me with haggis, Ben Nevis, got up to Loch Lomond and Arrochar, and I’m a big whisky drinker so what better a place!

What are your plans for 2012, do you have many exhibitions lined up?

MM: The year has been busy so far, I showed with Marianne Friis Gallery in Copenhagen during March and The Ballast Projects in Brooklyn in May, which ran concurrently with Frieze New York.

In September I’ll be showing again with Marianne Friis Gallery at Art Copenhagen in Denmark. I’m really looking forward to heading up to Scandinavia, and have a couple of other exciting things in the works.

Matt Mignanelli