Matthew Weinstein lives and works in Brooklyn NY. He has exhibited his work in many national and international galleries and museums. Solo museum exhibitions include: The Johnson Museum at Cornell University, The Orlando Museum, The Mint Museum, Charlotte NC, The Pinakothek Der Moderne, Munich Germany, The State of NY Art Gallery, Buffalo NY, and the Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna.
He has been included in exhibitions at The Denver Art Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture garden, Bronx Art Space, The San Antonio Museum, The Sammlung Essel, The Wexner Center For the Arts, The Tang Teaching Musuem, The Sammlung Goetz, Mana Contemporary, The Boulder Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Rubell Family Foundation, The Santa Barbara Museum, The Parrish Museum, Watermill NY, The Bunker Art Space, West Palm Beach FL, PS1, Long Island City NY, and The Musee Matisse, Nice, among others. He has had solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions at Sonnabend Gallery, NY, Baldwin Gallery, Aspen Colorado, White Box, NY, Sebastian Barquet, NY, Carolina NItsch, NY, Baumgartner Galleries, Washington DC, Young Projects, LA, Wetterling Gallery, Stockholm and Gothenburg, Nolan Judin Gallery, Berlin, Barbara Farber, Amsterdam, LA Louver, Deitch Projects LA, Galerie Camarga Vilaca, São Paulo, Lehman Maupin, NY, Studio La Citta,Verona Italy, Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, Film Cologne, Cologne Germany, Bravin Lee, NY, Kevin Bruk, Miami, Postmasters Gallery, NY, Mario Diacono, Boston, Neumann Wolfson, NY, Honor Fraser, LA, Daniel Weinberg, LA, Galeria Lehman, Lausanne, Kunsthalle al Hamburger Platz, Berlin, Greene Gallery, Geneva, Rochester Contemporary Art Center, Museo de Artes Visuales Alejandro Otero, Caracas, Off Shore Gallery, East Hampton, Todd Gallery, London, and Hacienda La Trinidad Parque Cultural, Caracas Venezuela, among others.
He created an animated film for The Charlotte Symphony as part of a Knight Foundation grant. Two of his NFTs were featured at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin TX in 2022, and they can be seen on Foundation.app. And he was the recipient of a Backslashart grant from Cornell Tech to create his interactive piece Anna Kavan, The Living End.
Weinstein’s work has been featured in The New York TImes, T Magazine, Flash Art, Artforum, Art News, Art in America, The New Yorker, Vulture, The LA Times, New York Magazine, The Huffington Post, NY Observer, Teme Celeste, Brooklyn Magazine, Atlántica, The Bellevue Literary Review, Thinking Art, BOMB, M/E/A/N/I/N/G, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Le Figaro, and other international and regional publications and journals.
Weinstein’s work is in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Orlando Museum, The Yale University Art Gallery, The Denver Museum, The Parrish Museum, The Bavarian State Collection, The Rubell Family Collection, The Jason Rubell Collection, The Miami Museum of Art, The Nassau County Museum, The New School University Art Collection, among others.
By addressing enhancements, both internal (the peaks and valleys of our emotional and physical lives), and external (technology, purchased pleasure, and the manipulation of nature), Matthew Weinstein engages in a phenomenological approach to rendering lived experience. In Weinstein’s work, representations of skeletons, sunsets, vintage Halloween masks, animated fish, and lens flares form an aesthetic socio-political cabaret whose elements he assembles and reassembles to evoke the idea that our social, political and natural environment is a medium in which we are embedded, like an idea or emotion in a work of art. Through his use of traditional art media as well as high tech media, such as hyper realistic computer animation, NFT’s and interactivity, Weinstein defines a broad, open, and inclusive aesthetic world. Weinstein brings each medium to the same standard of technical refinement, so each piece stands alone, outside of its original context.
Weinstein began his practice during the height of the AIDS crisis. His early paintings contained images of disembodied hands and skeletons caught in shipwrecks of paint and collage. Weinstein was evoking the disembodiment that is the result of fear and anger, when the body as a source of pleasure and function falls apart. He was also evoking the hysteria that occurs when sexual desire accompanies the fear of death. Verses of Rimbaud’s “Drunken Boat’ wind through these paintings in ransom note lettering, evoking the adolescent nature of desire and fear. Earlier paintings were inspired by an essay by the child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim about a boy who believed he was a machine and created a series of imaginary tubes for sustenance and the retainment of energy. For Weinstein, this case study evoked the alienation from one’s body that occurs when our physical gratifications become anti-natural.
Virtuality was speculated on during this time. Cyber sex was supposed to be a disembodied replacement for ‘real’ sex, and was therefore seen as a futuristic fix. But for Weinstein, virtuality is not something that was invented, it is something that has always been. All art, narratives, fantasies and religious mythologies, even faith itself, is a form of virtual experience. Virtuality is part of us. Without it we would not be able to exist. What is judged as escapism is actually a survival mechanism.
A new form of entertainment began to emerge; hyper realistic computer animation. With its aestheticization of perspective and shading, computer animation created an empathic space; one we feel as well as observe. It is an exacting and geometric space that is reminiscent of pre-modern painting. Weinsteins initial attraction to computer animation was its painterly nature. This nature is revealed in its seductiveness, and its ‘look but don’t touch’ hapticity.
Weinstein took a deep dive into this medium. He became the first artist to exhibit a character driven computer animation in an art gallery.
Weinstein created a series of anthropomorphic fish and wrote songs and narratives for them. The texts are hyperbolic, perverse and tragicomic. Weinstein refers to these pieces as ‘Animated Cabarets,’ because within them the political and the personal are used to create an alienating yet seductive discomfort.
Weinstein is fascinated and frustrated by the fact that animism has been relegated to entertainment. Deeply held beliefs about the spiritual connectedness between humans and nature are now replaced by simulated and fantasized experiences which allow a lack of accountability to our environment. We have turned nature into a counterfeit menagerie of child-like friends and hostile enemies.
Perhaps what humans hate most about the natural world is its indifference to us. Our narcissistic natures see this indifference as hostility.
Weinstein’s fish are indifferent to us. They simultaneously seduce and alienate us. Their speech is elliptical and frustrating in the way it rubs up against conventional narrative and then disappoints it. They are to be looked at and listened to. They are not friends. They are not enemies. None of them have names because they just ‘are.’
Weinstein makes paintings to accompany these films. He uses hyper realistic airbrush rendering as his medium. He creates a visual conversation between the non-art nature of airbrush painting and the non-art nature of computer animation, embedded within the context of high art.
Weinstein’s attraction to skeletons goes back to his early paintings. But his skeletons have morphed into beings far different from medieval-pop symbols of mortality. Weinstein’s sculpture, ‘The Triumph of Painting’ consists of two fully articulated life size bronze skeletons suspended in space, tossing a frisbee. From that time forward, Weinstein’s skeletons are social beings. They whisper jokes to each other. They pick butterflies and candy out of each other’s heads. They offer drink parasols to the viewer. They hang out with goblins and ghouls. They are not in us, they are us. They are the magnificent architecture that we need to live up to. Weinstein’s skeletons represent his idea that the baseline of human existence isn’t our biology, but our potential for communication and exchange on a personal and a broader level.
Painting was Weinstein’s original medium and continues as the foundation of his practice.
Weinstein explores painting as a multimedia artist. His media are oil and airbrush, two very different media with vastly different cultural connotations. The airbrush paintings are seamless; the space is highly illusionistic and the hand is not evident. To make his oil paintings, Weinstein employs a catalog of marks. The marks create texture. Colors vibrate next to each other. The paintings are all in the scale of HD resolution, so a dialogue is set up between the mark and the pixel, as well as cinematic and painterly composition.
During the period of COVID lockdown, Weinstein could not work in animation due to the communal nature of these ambitious projects. Oil paint became his primary medium. He began to create paintings based on vintage Ben Cooper halloween masks, a collection assembled from ebay, during COVID, when one’s obsessions became an issue of mail order.
One painting is of a gang of blond princesses and lantern jawed men in front of a blank blue screen. It refers to the talking heads of the right wing media. Another is a group of skeleton and goblin masks massing in front of the viewer, reminiscent of the domestic terrorist attack on our capital. And alongside these imagistic paintings he creates paintings of cinematic sunsets that are both magnificent and threatening, as if the sublime was grasped out of its singularity and inflated with our ecstasies and fears.
For Weinstein, style and technique are not connected. In fact, ‘style’ should be replaced with the word ‘identity’ when viewing his work.
The complex construction that is Queer identity contains its shifting nature. When one’s identity is a secret for a period of their lives, fluidity is a survival mechanism. We are ‘good’ in some places and ‘bad’ in others. Conflicting representations of what we are battle each other in politics and pop culture. And as queer identity (thankfully) fractures, we can embrace fluidity rather than percieving it as a weakness.
This fluidity is manifested in Weinstein’s work. He utilizes the medium that is necessary to freeze certain moments where what is crucial to his ways of thinking and seeing re-manifest themselves. Over the years he has created a series of avatars that populate his computer animated videos, thus portraying his self over time. Weinstein sees himself as an artist in time, not a fixed point.