Justin Matherly – Cost of living - Mob above, mob below (w.t.n.c.g.l.) (2013/2019)
The practice of the American artist Justin Matherly (b. 1972) is based on his interest in European philosophy and Greek and Roman mythology. His works are physical depictions of philosophical ideas, most of which are from ominous books by authors such as Franz Kafka, Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade. The form that Matherly employs is derived from classical western sculpture. His large-scale figurative works are reminiscent of busts of mythological gods. Like many classical statues, Matherly’s sculptures are incomplete and damaged. These are deliberate imperfections in statues of poured concrete and artificial plaster, which have a rock-like appearance.
Matherly’s work for DELIRIOUS was inspired by his fascination with eternal recurrence, the repetitive nature of all life. This is a concept that he found in Nietzsche and also, for example, in the Ouroboros, one of the oldest symbols in the world, which represents the cyclical character of nature in the form of a snake biting its own tail to create a circle.
In order to give sculptural form to this idea of constant repetition, Matherly often uses Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, in his work, who is traditionally depicted with a staff around which a snake is coiled. Asclepius did not just cure people, but also brought them back from the dead. In order to emphasize the relationship between the continuous cycle of life and medical recovery, Matherly incorporates medical instruments into his sculptures, such as walking frames, which function simultaneously as a support or a pedestal.
Matherly’s sculpture for DELIRIOUS, the title of which is Cost of living; mob above, mob below (w.t.n.c.g.l.), also refers to healing. It is a huge concrete sculpture of a lion’s head mounted on steel crutches, which also serve to support the work. In Greek mythology, the lion pulled the chariots that carried the gods, such as Asclepius, and was also a symbol of conquered power.
With his work, Matherly asks his audience to reflect on the modern-day expansion of processes of decay and healing.