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Basement Room On Drugs

New Works from Matthew Palladino

The inspiring young American painter celebrates his first major exhibition on the east coast

The hugely-talented young artist Matthew Palladino has a bright future ahead of him. The 23-year-old San Francisco to Philly transplant might have dropped out of art college, yet he has just celebrated an acclaimed show at the City of Brotherly Love’s premiere creative hub/collective Space 1026, where he he exhibits in a joint exhibition with Eric Shaw. “We had a similar sense of humour in our paintings, and a similar aesthetic," he says. "But it was like he was painting in the desert and I was painting in the mountains.”

Dazed Digital: What inspires you about Space 1026?
Matthew Palladino: I got excited about Space 1026 when I visited last summer. I was blown away by what they had set up there. It had elements which reminded me of The Mission Cultural Centre in San Francisco, which is an amazing resource as well. But it also has all these mini-artist studios set up for a very reasonable price. I thought it was also interesting that their gallery space is curated by artists and doesn't have to rely on the sale of the art it shows to maintain itself, leaving them free to show work from a more diverse pool of artists, people whose art may be considered risky, unprofitable or unknown.

DD: Some people might be surprised with your new large-scale pieces?
Matthew Palladino: I love to work really big but buying something like panel or paper that size is so expensive and intimidating. I’m nervous to mess it up. I've also never had a studio, I just work in my bedroom, and there's no room to work that big. But when you have a wall and you can do whatever, the only pressure is to take full advantage of that space and challenge yourself to do something new. It’s a different kind of adventure, and a different experience to work so closely to something then step back and see it come together, or not. It’s an enjoyable challenge.

DD: How did the Jim Jones (the 70s Jonestown cult leader) series come about?
Matthew Palladino: It was such a uniquely American disaster. It’s hard to explain the fascination with him and the People's Temple. I supposed I’m scared of the Jim Jones in me. It seems he set out with such truly good intensions, but let ego, fear and self-abuse take hold of him. I’m not trying to justify his actions, but I find it all very human. Most people in that congregation seemed to be the best kind of human. They practiced bravery, hope and love, they wanted to believe in more than just themselves. And they were willing to work for it, die for it. The whole story seemed to touch on a wide spectrum of humanity.

DD: The new work seems to a more stripped back vision of humans?
Matthew Palladino: Yeah, that makes sense. I was trying out presenting the human form in simple representation, and at the same time looking at self-representation and my complexion. Skin colour has become a very self-conscious decision process for me since I did the original Jim Jones series. I think that’s what led me to the Ghost paintings, I was trying to create human form without having to identify race (or gender), letting their environment dictate their appearance. But my ascetic choice of black and white backgrounds might have worked against this, since those words lead your mind back to the discussion of skin colour.

DD: What's next for the summer?
Matthew Palladino: My summer’s open-ended. I’ll be in San Francisco, but don’t really have anywhere to work. I’m very restless. See you soon SF!