Mateo Gutiérrez is a contemporary artist who makes hand-embroidered artworks to bring into question the underlying contemporary cultural ethos of violence endemic to American life both personally, politically and historically. Mateo moved to the U.S. at the age of sixteen, and has struggled with his conflicted relationship to the U.S. ever since. He presents both a sociopolitical and a deeply personal reflection on what it means to be American. He challenges the viewer with a powerful and challenging critique of the traumatic effects of the so-called "American way of life" and also what it means to be an outsider as both foreign born and Latino. He cites his complex experience with the United States as central to his understanding of American cultural practices that are defined by racial and socioeconomic hierarchies engendering violence and xenophobia.
Mateo often sources his images online from news stories that he feels best depict a contemporary view of the traumatic effects of the underlying cultural code of violence in American society, stories that themselves make headlines for a short period of time and then are discarded from the cultural discussion, much like the people in the images themselves. In his work Mateo seeks to bring these all too often forgotten tragedies that litter the American landscape back to life, to make us look at them in excruciating detail by meticulously hand-embroidering them as a rejection of the immediacy and disposability of the social media news cycle.
Mateo has exhibited nationally in galleries in Los Angeles, New York and Texas, including multiple museum exhibitions: the Austin Museum of Art, MexicArte Museum and a solo exhibition at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art in 2023. Mateo has been featured in New American Painters, Hyperallergic, the Austin American Statesman, The Hartford Courant, Glasstire and other notable journals. Mateo was shortlisted for the NXTHVN residency in New Haven CT and the Field Projects residency in NYC, and was a resident in the Bronx Art Space Governors Island Residency on Governors Island New York City in 2021. Mateo has a BA in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley and his MFA in studio painting from the University of Texas at Austin. He lives and works in San Marcos and Austin Texas.
I am focused on the underlying violent and self-loathing nature of the American social psychology by asking the viewer to see what they already see everyday recontextualized through the materials I use and the juxtapositions I present. I am asking the viewer to reconsider what we all too often are asked to scroll through quickly, going to the next breaking story, and the next, and the next ... I am questioning our own complicity in this respect, but not as an act of shame but as an act of self-empowerment. I believe that the sole project of art today is to live squarely within the realm of human emotions; art must allow us the opportunity to both heal and to see our own failings, where we have played a part. This process is not easy and it is often painful, and, as I said, it must include our own demons, our own complicity, our own failings; we cannot merely sit in judgment of others. I am asking us all to be more vulnerable, and in so doing experience our full range of emotions, because when we do, we would naturally, innately and unanimously reject and seek to improve the near total psychologically failed state of American society in which we find ourselves and in which we have been since the very inception of American nationhood.
In my current hand-embroidered work I juxtapose similar bodily gestures as seen in groups of people during and after mass shootings with people crossing the US-Mexico border. I am presenting the similarity of the physical gestures of their pain and suffering. I am pointing to an underlying cultural truth of violence. I am seeking to bring this underlying cultural ethos to the forefront painstakingly for us to see and taste and feel, and not simply click away from as we do day after day, month after month, year after year. I get all of my images exclusively online from the endless news media bombarding us 24/7. My singular purpose is to honestly express this period in American history in its most exposed, violent and failed psychological state without irony, cynicism or any particular added level of intellectual depth or conceptual apparatus. I want us to stop and truly see it for what it is in a uniquely painful and honest manner, as only art can allow us to do.
I choose to work very specifically from Texas because Texas is the culmination point of all the extremes of American society that we both celebrate and are, perhaps, most ashamed of, always the antagonist to refined culture, always the most crass, the most banal, the most wanting and yet somehow the most honest, the most "American". We don't have the glitz of Hollywood or the gravitas of NY or the shine and sparkle of Miami or the history of Chicago or Philadelphia. Our beaches are ugly and forgotten, our cities hot and scattered, and somehow capable of feeling both urban and suburban at the same time; our landscape is flat and deserted and fenced and littered in stripmalls. Texas is where the brutal truth of Americanism is fully exposed in the endless loops of freeway seemingly going nowhere with the feeling that we are headed towards the very last stop on the proverbial American road trip. Texas presents the final and darkest frontier of a deeply conflicted, often hypocritical, often racist and xenophobic, often self-loathing and fundamentally violent American social psychology and yet presents a strange sense of brutal optimism and potential, a sense that you will be left alone here, but the eerie sense that this may also not be what you want. I am looking at this complex and often difficult mythology head on as the start point for understanding the deeply troubled heartbeat of the American empire.
M.F.A. Studio Painting, University of Texas, Austin
B.A. Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley
Upcoming 2025: Art League Houston, Houston, TX, solo exhibition, Feb 28 - Apr 18, 2025
La Mecha Contemporary, group exhibition, "A Fine Line", El Paso, Texas
Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, solo exhibition, Brownsville, Texas
Mexic-Arte Museum, group exhibition, Alimento para el Alma / Food for the Soul, Austin, Texas
BronxArtSpace, group exhibition, 5 Artists, "Where Do We All Come From?", Bronx, NY
The Border Gallery, group exhibition, Border Walls IV, Brooklyn, NY
BronxArtSpace, Residency Exhibition, Governors Island, NY
DorDor Gallery, group exhibition, Brooklyn, NY
Shrine Gallery, group exhibition, NY, NY
MOCA Long Island, Night Visions Gallery MOCA L.I.ghts, group exhibition, Patchogue, LI, NY
The Urban Collective & Nasty Women, group exhibition, Rituals of Resistance, New Haven, CT
Field Projects Gallery, group exhibition, Hoarders House, NY, NY
Buckwild Gallery, solo exhibition, Los Angeles, CA
Mexic-Arte Museum, group exhibition, Young Latino Artists, Austin, Texas
Lawndale Art Center, solo exhibition,The Project Room, Houston, Texas
Jones Contemporary, group exhibition, New American Talent, curated by Jerry Saltz, Austin, TX
Austin Museum of Art, group exhibition, 22 to Watch, New Art in Austin, Austin, TX
2021 Bronx Art Space Governors Island Residency, NYC
2021 Field Projects Residency, NY, NY - shortlisted
2020 NXTHVN Residency, New Haven, CT - shortlisted
AWARDS & HONORS
2021 Top Ten Studio Picks by NY & LA based curator & writer Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy, Gowanus Open Studios
1999 Minority Fellowship Award, University of Texas Austin
1997 Merit Award, University of Texas Austin
Glasstire (Texas Visual Arts), La Mecha Contemporary, group exhibition write up, August issue
Brownsville Valley Central 23 Channel 4 and Danielle Banda "Valley Por La Vida", TV interview
Glasstire (Texas Visual Arts), Brownsville Museum of Fine Art solo exhibition write up, May issue
The Magic Spark Podcast, featured guest, "The Wound of Worthiness & Belonging: Artist Interview"
New American Painting, featured artist, Issue #152 “Northeast”
Hyperallergic, "Your Guide to Explore the Unfamiliar at Gowanus Open Studios"
Mott Haven Herald, "Five Bronx Artists Chosen for Governors Island Residency"
Hyperallergic, “A View From the Easel During Times of Quarantine”
Hartford Courant, “Rituals of Resistance”
Arts Council Greater New Haven, “In Year Four, Nasty Women Returns To Its Roots”
Austin American Statesman, "22 to Watch"
Austin Chronicle, "Behind the Storage Unit Door"
February 2024: TED Talk at Texas State University
May 2023: Solo-exhibition Artist Talk and Q&A at Brownsville Museum of Fine Art
2023-present: Texas State University Department of Art, Studio Art Lecturer
1996-1999, University of Texas at Austin, new media teaching assistant