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Mateo Gutiérrez is a multidisciplinary artist who brings into question the underlying ethos of violence endemic to American history, culture and daily life. In his most recent work Mateo constructs large scale hand-embroidered paintings and dual screen video installations that tell a story of the traumatic conditions of modern American society through the lens of immigration, mass shootings and mass consumption. He sources his images exclusively from online news sources.

 

Mateo moved to the U.S. at the age of sixteen, and has struggled with his conflicted relationship to the U.S, which can be seen in his work. Mateo 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 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 or asking us to view them in endless video loops which contradict and reject the near instantaneous social media news cycle attention span. For example, his large scale hand-embroidered works often six months or longer to produce.

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 Austin Texas.

CV

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My highest purpose as an artist is to allow us to pause, put down our devices and really think about and feel the degree to which we, Americans, are such a deeply violent society and how we are pathologically desensitized to this reality. I bear witness to the true victims of this world order, starting right here in the epicenter of it all, Texas. I use embroidery thread to do that, and I view my work as a service and a conversation that goes into the guts of what it means to be American, specifically a culture defined by violence. I strive to create environments for healing through both my work and collaborative art production, appreciation and discussion. I believe that art is a wholly public practice; it belongs to us, to society, not to individuals or even institutions, who are, at best, caretakers of the work. Art is ours. I work solely in service of these fundamental principles. I sincerely hope that my work brings emotional solace and dignity to our very being and reinforces that each and every one of us matters, is heard and is seen, so that we may fully realize our collective power to create a better society and world, and that we get up off our butts and do exactly that.

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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 heal. This process is not easy and it is often painful, and 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 psychological failure of American society in which we find ourselves.

 

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. Nothing about Texas is glossed over or dressed up. We don't have the glitz of Hollywood or the gravitas of NY. Texas is where the brutal truth of Americanism is fully exposed, the last stop on the proverbial American road trip. Texas is always 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 American empire.

A brief artist statement talking about the series "And I Feel Fine / Y Me Siento Bien".

An artist talk I gave at the Brownsville Museum of Art in Brownsville Texas in 2023 for my solo-exhibition there.

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