Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mat Gleason Coagula Interview Part III

Continuing a four part interview with Mat Gleason of Coagula Art Journal.

(Click here and here for Parts I and II.)

JW: You've talked before about the importance of urgency and real need in art making. Do you find extremes generally more relevant than subtleties in art and art criticism?

MG: Art can be subtle or not, I don't have a litmus there, but if art criticism is not urgent it makes no impact. It makes hardly any impact anyway, so if it is not raging proclamations, soundbites or screeds of passion the only hope you have got is to get tenure because you were writing about what the department chair wanted to read.

JW: Do you have a favorite Coagula piece or quote from the first 100 issues?

MG: When I go back and read things, sometimes they were written so urgently that they could use a little refining. Off the top of my head the whole Barbara Kruger Issue sticks out as what this whole publication really was and still kind of is... So it is 2000, the fall, Issue #42, there is a great piece on Tom Sachs in this issue. I thought I had a picture of Tom that Ray Newton had taken somewhere. Suddenly it was deadline and the picture had not materialized. I was in a panic and thought I should just go see the MOCA retrospective of Barbara Kruger on Sunday - it had opened on Saturday but I was working on the magazine so I didn't go to the big party, so I decided to go see it Sunday and write a generic review Sunday night, do the layout and pick up a press photo of her on Monday on the way to the printers. Well… the show stunk, it was offensively fascistic, I was enraged at the whole exhibit's evil tone. I came back to my computer and trashed it and found a picture of a poodle on Google image search, which I had just discovered a few weeks before, and made the cover that reads in Barbara Kruger red blocks and text... "KRUGER: YOU CAN'T TEACH AN OLD DOG TO STOP MAKING BAD ART." with a poodle in the background because of Barbara Kruger's notoriously poodle-like haircut. So I still made the printers on Monday, and it was awesome to be in charge of the whole thing enough that it had that flexibility to go from assuming I would like something and write a piece to changing the whole thing and, well I got a lot of feedback on that cover and the article, the whole thing was popular.

JW: Over the course of its seventeen years in print, Coagula has undoubtedly stirred things up from time-to-time. Do you think your work there has made an important contribution to the art world and influenced artists and others, for better or worse, along the way?

MG: When a writer challenges things, the problem becomes NOT taking credit for it. I talked shit about people, like Jeremy Strick at MOCA, and nobody thanked me when he was railroaded out of there years later after he had bled the place dry. Meanwhile Christopher Knight of the LA Times, who was complicit in MOCA's demise in that it happened on his watch as the voice of visual art at the big daily, well he got to mother-hen the rebuilding process in print and look like a civic-minded hero. So yeah, if I told you of my triumphs it would be such a tragedy.

To be continued.

Tomorrow, in the fourth and final installment of our interview, Mat talks about artists who blog and the tyranny of the audience, the dangers of being "real," and what's next for Coagula.

Issue #100 of Coagula Art Journal will be viewable November 10, online at Coagula.net.

Barbara Kruger image via the Brooklyn Museum.

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