Mateo Tannatt
Studio Agony (Revisited) / Barn Paintings / A Monochrome the Color Yolk

Mateo Tannatt
Studio Agony (Revisited) / Barn Paintings / A Monochrome the Color Yolk

INOVA (Institute of Visual Arts) at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Mateo Tannatt, Studio Agony (Revisited) (production still), 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

February 3, 2015
Mateo TannattStudio Agony (Revisited) / Barn Paintings / A Monochrome the Color Yolk

January 30–March 14, 2015

INOVA (Institute of Visual Arts)
2155 N. Prospect Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday noon–5pm,
Thursday noon–8pm

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Mateo Tannatt’s new installation includes video, painting, sculpture, and an architectural intervention. The exhibition centers on a video shot in a construction site for future artists’ studios. A menagerie of farm animals and a lone protagonist wander the space in a strange state of limbo. Accompanying paintings and sculptures flesh out a project that weaves between narrative and abstraction in an absurdist parable of labor and play, minimalism and digital post-production, avatars and zombies.

Sites of cultural production are recurrent subjects for Tannatt, through which he investigates labor, improvisation, collaboration, and the negotiation between the creative impulse and the boredom of everyday comings and goings. Tannatt finds fodder in historical portrayals of artists’ working environments and depictions of physical labor, drawn to both their documentary appeal and allegorical nature. In the new video, Tannatt addresses this territory of self-identification and self-promotion through an oblique and dark parody. Nothing is romantic or heroic here. The generic build out is the typecast architecture of lofts and warehouses common to countless contemporary artists’ studios. A soundtrack of strings sets a baleful mood and the gray walls reinforce this bleak tone. A coterie of livestock becomes a company of nonsensical associates, while the protagonist evokes a ghostly figure in suspended animation. Tannatt’s video finds kinship with Andy Warhol’s studio films that capture seemingly inconsequential activity for hours on end. The films, and this video, ultimately convey time’s nondescript and inescapable passing.

In the video, the architecture becomes both a narrator and a character that performs alongside its habitués. The repeating forms of linear metal beams and the neutral colors of unpainted drywall play cousins to minimalist sculpture and gestural abstract expressionist painting. An intervention into the gallery architecture echoes the physical structure portrayed in the video, but now at INOVA it is newly finished. Wallpaper based on photographs of the architecture in the video is rendered in chromakey colors and becomes the backdrop for paintings. The paintings play at being contemporary formalist works at the same time they are depictions of floor plans, maps, and psychological investigations. Tannatt’s sculptures also have multiple possibilities: they can be viewed as finish-fetish abstractions, ready-mades taken from the farm, indexes of studio activity, display devices, or green screen surfaces used for digital special effects. The exhibition creates dysfunction between form and context, while staying true to the artist’s ongoing inquiry into the differing values we place on abstraction and narrative as expressive languages and cultural products.

Funding for the exhibition is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Curated by Sara Krajewski, Director of INOVA.


About the artist
Los Angeles-based artist Mateo Tannatt uses sculpture as a platform that includes performance, video, photography, and painting, creating landscapes of objects and props that are often brought to life by actors and performers. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including CCA Wattis, San Francisco; Institute of Contemporary Arts, Philadelphia; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Frieze Projects, New York; ArtParcours, Art Basel; and Performa 11, New York.


INOVA is the contemporary art gallery and research institute at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts.

INOVA supports the advancement of contemporary art by facilitating the creation of new works across disciplines and placing artistic research into broader dialogues of social, cultural, and academic importance. INOVA showcases emerging forms of transdisciplinary art—the provocative work that resides in between and outside of conventional genres. Each project and exhibition includes collaboration with UWM partners and community organizations, providing opportunities for exchange between exhibiting artists, university scholars and scientists, local artists, and the larger community of Milwaukee. These partnerships allow us to build an informed audience by bringing high-level specialists into dialogue with the general public.



Mateo Tannatt at the Institute of Visual Arts (INOVA), University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

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February 3, 2015

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