“I like to look at it (art) as the curse of the truth-teller. You tell the truth – especially in art for the most part – a majority of people are involved in creating and perpetuating illusions. When you come in to tell the truth, you are shattering illusions. So you are not exactly Mister popularity. I’ve had a dilemma when I want to tell the truth, sometimes it’s not taken well.”
Founder of the highly controversial Coagula Art Journal (the “National Enquirer of the Art World” as the New York Observer called it), Mat Gleason is an internationally recognized art critic and curator of contemporary art. The New York Times described him as a “famously provocative Los Angeles art critic,” while the L.A. Weekly once referred to him as a “cranky, self-exiled gossipmonger.”
He has written for many art publications, from Britain’s Modern Painters to the Lollapalooza Concert Tour’s art program. The early issues of Coagula were anthologized in the book MOST ART SUCKS (Smart Art Press, 1998) and in his 1999 review of the book, David Bowie raved: “Gleason clobbers the closed door snobbishness that has increasingly distanced the public from the rarefied air of the art world.”
Mat has been featured regularly on the Ovation TV Network as a voice of critical sanity in the realm of contemporary art and appeared alongside artists John Baldessari, Richard Tuttle, and Agnes Martin in the art world documentary Art City: Simplicity . His on-screen presence adds weight in some artist biographical films, such as “Mr. Bitchin'” (2010) and “One Man Band” (2013), where he passionately advocates for the greatness of artists Robert Williams and Llyn Foulkes, respectively.
But Gleason is most known for his aversion to established orthodoxies and his fearlessness in voicing an informed opinion.
If you pull the curtain back far enough, everybody’s going to get a glimpse. We all benefit from that.
In the Ovation TV series “Art Or Not?” (2007) he trashed popular fine art superstar Sheppard Fairey in a memorable verbal laceration that earned him the scorn of street art fanboys and the admiration of those who would not “Obey” conventional art wisdom. In the Bobby Sheehan-directed “Jeff Koons: Beyond Heaven” (2009), Gleason emerges as the lone voice bent on removing the emperor’s clothes and critiquing the lack of substance in the artist’s work and Koons’ well-manicured persona.
His sharp analytical tongue and ability to articulate aesthetics served him well analyzing and critiquing the competitive body painting in the RuPaul-hosted “Skin Wars: Fresh Paint”, the 2016 television series where he sat as one of the regular judges.
From 2010-18, he was a contentious yet popular art critic on the Huffington Post’s Arts page. In 2012 he opened Coagula Curatorial, an influential gallery in Los Angeles that is active at many international art fairs.
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Author: Form Magazine
FORM: pioneering design, a publication that celebrates Southern California’s contribution to architecture, design, and the visual arts.