Mat Gleason: Art world pioneer (2009)

Do you dare send your jazzy, sexy press release to Mat Gleason?

Now back in the days when we were firing off press releases and looking to gather as many international press clippings that we could, Mat Gleason and the Coagula Art Journal were NOT on our mailing list.

Why you may ask? For those who know his work in the 90s, you clearly know why. But for those out there who don’t, the reason is this: if there was one person to rip into our strategically placed phrasing to generate clippings, it was certainly Mat Gleason.

The magazine’s stance is clear even today: "Coagula is clarity amidst the ambiguity of contemporary art and the neutered, star-struck art world; we don’t f*** around here."

So without further introduction, here’s a sample of Mat’s writing. We don’t agree with everything he says, but we’ve never seen anyone say it better than this...

Editor’s Column

Throughout our short publishing life, two questions have been asked of us more than any: (1.) Why are you so negative? (2.) Why can’t you be nice?

The answers, simply:

1. We’re only negative to counteract the placating incestuousness that swamps all credible relationships in the art world.

2. We can’t be nice when the people most closely associated with caretaking the beauty and legacy of great contemporary art abuse their roles for personal gain and/or glory.

The worst reactions to Coagula during my ten-issue tenure have been from people who at one time or another had originally supported this journal. They were cheering us on until we investigated something a little too close to them. The icy stares and canceled invitations followed. I have a wonderful thank-you note from a prominent Los Angeles galleriste, handwritten in expensive boarding-school script, thanking us for "our continuous support" after two positive reviews of the gallery’s artists. Yet after one small item discussing the personal habits of one of the stable’s more obnoxious junior artists, it was as if we had aimed a cannon at the space’s fledgling legacy. It was made perfectly clear that we were no longer in the "club" (or, with this gallery’s increasing demand for obedience, the CULT). Luckily and happily, we at Coagula are not interested in belonging to the elitist cliques that so permeate the art-world landscape as thoroughly as Jack Ruby haunting every JFK assassination theory. If we can unnerve just one trust-fund kid’s grasp on taste and sentiment we will have done our job. Face it, art world—Coagula has published ten issues of thumbtacks in your pretty little overrated ass. Just be ready for more than ten more. We are here to stay.

—Mat Gleason
Issue 10, December 1993

This excerpt has been reprinted with Mat Gleason’s approval. It comes from the classic text Most art sucks: Five years of Coagula (1998), published by Smart Art Press. This should be on every fine art student’s reading list—even if Mat ever rips into ADP in future and we publicly change our minds.

This book is a treasure chest of innovative text approaches for brainstorming. Students can make their own assessments, of course!