During a temporary reprieve from lockdown this winter in Berlin, the Paris-based artist Matthew Lutz-Kinoy opened a balm of a show for rough times. At Frieder Burda’s Salon in Berlin, he lined rooms with soft pink carpeting, added mats to sit or lie on, and hung strands of red pompoms that wave gently as you pass by. The painter’s washed out canvases and elegant ceramics line the walls in a show that ultimately feels like an olive branch during a year of downturn and struggle, where so little art could be seen in person.
From his Paris studio, where the New Yorker is now based, Lutz-Kinoy received daily updates from the curatorial team about how viewers were moving through the space. Meanwhile, he continued to make new works in his rather idiosyncratic way. To keep a clear mind for painting, he minimizes visual noise, such as knickknacks or colorful clothing.
We spoke to the artist about what he’s been working on, listening to, and otherwise biding his time while awaiting the vaccine.
What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?
The studio can get chilly, so definitely the radiators! In my previous studios in France, I would have said the space heater, but—knock on wood—I finally moved into an atelier with radiators. What a blessing! Other than that, the tea kettle which goes side by side with the coffee pot that my partner gifted to me. I have recently been drinking Belleville Brûlerie, but I’m open for coffee advice from people in Paris. And how could I forget my Berkey water filter, which I brought with me from Los Angeles? You can take the horny surfer out of California, but you won’t separate him from his Berkey.
What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?
Corresponding with Patricia Kamp, who is the artistic director at Frieder Burda’s Salon in Berlin. After a long lasting Berlin museum lockdown, our exhibition “Window to The Clouds” was finally able to open, which feels like it happened against all odds. One of the everyday uplifting things in my life is getting updates from the goings-on of the show in Berlin. The little ray of light that shines these days comes from being able to share this exhibition with a physical public of human bodies who are moving through space—what a treat. Even if it’s not easy to travel over boarders, these updates keep me close to the exhibition.
What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work?
I enjoy working in an empty space. When there are too many objects around, it risks informing the works I am making, which is why I work in my underpants because even the color of clothing informs choices in the paintings and this can work to my detriment. If you wear headphones you can make a little sound bubble, and this combination of nudity and complete audio immersion makes a sort of floating tank isolation chamber atmosphere.
My studio has street-level windows and I don’t like curtains—it’s too much texture in combination with the canvases, so this prevents me somewhat from working in the buff. Although I started this year wearing a bleach-white, very absorbent cotton blend sweater that soaks up spills and stains while painting which is more ecological than using toilet paper to soak up mistakes, which I unfortunately use a lot of—and just yesterday when I was biking home, I began considering absorbent cotton blend leggings. Thanks for the reminder!
Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence?
While working, I listened multiple times to by Cyrus Grace Dunham, which is a great audio book read by the author. And after that I listened to by Edmund White for a little bit of old school gay literary New York City vibes.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art?
Trash into treasure, tragic into magic, something out of nothing.
What trait do you most despise?
I am very much an “all god’s children got a place in the choir” type of art viewer. Something that makes me uncomfortable is witnessing an indulgence in waste, and celebrations of excess in the arts.
When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?
This is not a health-conscious thing to say, and I don’t recommend this to everyone, but one could go out and grab a Monster Energy drink from the corner store and if there is any sunlight nearby, stand in the sun and drink it all. If you can’t work after that, at least you’ll have enough insanity energy to do something else.
What is the last exhibition you saw, virtual or otherwise, that made an impression on you?
I saw a recorded talk with LaToya Ruby Frazier associated with the exhibition “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America.” I had recently read a profile on her in the which was insightful, but hearing it directly from her in this conversation was eye opening, Frazier is clear and her working method as an activist through her involvement as a photographer is inspiring.
How would you describe your mood right now?
I would say it is bittersweet. The sweet part is preparing my show at Villa Era with Mendes Wood DM in Italy for this summer, and the bitter part is awaiting the vaccine… This rollout feels like forever!