Adhoc Interviews

Transformations, Refractions and Artifacts: Matthew Koons

In geometry, a translation is a term that describes moving an object without changing its qualities. Matthew Koons’ refractions commit to a sort of mathematical narrative. The magic of geometry has been studied by mankind for a few thousand years, and nonetheless it continues to be a source for discovery in mathematics and the arts alike.

Koons’ artwork is the furthest from a simple translation. They are precise, calculated and transformative. His 2-dimensional works take on portal-esque qualities. They are weightless and offer us a glimpse — of another world. His 3-dimensional wooden sculptures are refreshingly solemn. His totems are often pensive and reflective, as they have a symbolic significance.

So, you no longer live in the Dallas/ Fort Worth Area. Where do you live now?

I moved away from Dallas to New York City last April and I’m living in Brooklyn now. I’ve been a professional art handler essentially since I graduated from college and I had kind of progressed through the ranks in Dallas to a point where I had a position at the DMA that I really enjoyed but didn’t really have any mobility, some of my colleagues had been working in their same position for 30+ years. I had wanted to move away from Texas for a while for a new experience and I already had a ton of friends here and some professional connections so it was kind of the natural choice. Everything kind of fell into place for me without much struggle which I almost feel guilty about. For most of my first year I freelanced as an art handler for a few museums and galleries and just recently I started working full time as a preparator at a gallery in the lower east side.

Tell me a bit about where you went to school.

I went to school at the University of North Texas, but not for art, I got English Literature and Archaeology degrees which ultimately have done more for my career than an art degree would’ve so I’m thankful the choices I made when I didn’t have much personal direction had a positive effect afterall.

Venus Figurine Totem
Venus Figurine Totem wood, 2014.

Since moving to Brooklyn, what have been some challenges you’ve encountered living as an artist in Brooklyn? Has moving to Brooklyn had a positive effect on your work?

Like with moving anywhere it took me a little while to get my bearings and to get my professional life sorted out. As far as living as an artist nothing much has changed for me– my work is an extension of my own exploration of different spatial, formal and metaphysical concepts that I’ve been preoccupied with for as long as I can remember really. That just so happens to result in a physical object that other people can also look at and interact with. I haven’t really ever gone out of my way to try to exhibit my work and so far I have had relatively little interest in becoming a professional or commercial artist as such. The city plays a huge role in my day to day visual inspiration and a lot of the inherent isolation involved in being one of eight million people generates a lot of the emotional energy that I take into my work when I have time and I’m in the proper headspace to be productive.

being one of eight million people generates a lot of the emotional energy that I take into my work

How has your education in Literature and Archaeology affected your art?

Literature hasn’t had a particularly tangible effect on my work. I like to think I’m able to express my ideas clearly which is certainly a product of my education to some extent. If anything having a Literature degree has pushed me to completely abandon any sort or narrative approach to my own work. I try to present different compositions that the viewer can have their own experience with without too much exposition influencing their perspective. Archaeology has had more of a clear impact for me as far as my interests in deeper concepts of time, symbolism, and different shapes that have held meaning for humans over millennia. I try to achieve a sense of balance in my pieces which is directly informed by objects from antiquity that exude particular aesthetic or spiritual value to me– many of which I first came in contact with through my studies.



Poplar Totem wood, 2015.
Poplar Totem wood, 2014.

What are you currently working on?

As far as what I’m working on now I am pretty immersed in this holographic or omnispectral paper which I’ve been using for my collages as well as researching other materials and prismatic objects that produce similar rainbow light affects. I really respond to being able to essentially use every color simultaneously and the added interactivity the pieces have when every element of the piece continuously changes color as you move around it in space. I guess you could call it my rainbow period since this material has almost completely replaced my old method of cut paper collaging using old magazine elements which I selected for their color and texture and then arranged how they seemed to fit together best. Now I can focus a little more closely on composition and forced perspective since every element has a uniform appearance. A few friends and I own two risograph printers so the choices of coloration and meticulous attention to texture is still alive in the drawings I make for use in my printing process. I hope to have a self published book of some of my drawings out this year and start to print some books for other artist who I know who I’m particularly fond of. I used to do a lot of wood sculpture but I don’t really have woodshop access to work on that anymore and my process was really dangerous so I’ve kind of shelved that project for now. But when I moved into my apartment in Bushwick I found a cache of slate slabs in my backyard which I have dabbled in doing some relief carvings on so it’s nice to still be able to work with a more dimensional physical material.

Has working as an art handler influenced your process in any way?

Definitely—there’s the kind of obvious level where I come into contact with a lot of work and each piece adds to the accumulation of imagery that stores up as my mental frame of reference. Which has both developed and changed my tastes over time and also kind of changed my direction in what imagery makes it into my work and how I conceptualize the art object. Having worked in shipping, for nonprofits and very much for profit sectors I’ve seen Art treated in a lot of different ways. It has influenced me more subtly in that the more I know about the industry the less inclined I am to respond to pieces that I perceive as being a product of the gallery/museum and artist studio industry and I am in turn more likely to value something that I think is a more direct expression of the artists’ beliefs and unique perspective made by the person themselves. So I guess that informs my personal ethos in terms of my approach to what I think is worth spending my time on as far as creating work goes.


Who do you make art for, and what is important in understanding your artwork?

Ultimately I make my work for myself. It’s therapeutic for me to express visually the kind of ideas I concepts I am personally interested in, like a kind of intellectual pressure release or steam valve. Any other viewer doesn’t need to know anything to interpret my work and I think my pieces can provide accessible content for anyone who happens to encounter them. Other than their own perspective and experiences the viewer doesn’t need anything else to unpack my aesthetic which is relatively simple. There are no man made objects or any other products of society present in the imagery I use in my work which are omnipresent in day to day life. So there is a utopian and escapist element to my practice which I am aware of. In a lot of ways I don’t need to know anything to make it. I have a pretty established process and I’m really just a mechanism or medium for the arrangements to be expressed by. I had the initial idea and I’ve developed it over the years as I expect to in years future. Hopefully the viewer will be able to free associate their own reactions to the work and any direct reference to the contemporary world or anything overtly political can be contained to my printing and zine production.


What do you want your audience to take away from the pieces of art you create?

I really don’t spend very much time conceptualizing my audience and spend even less time thinking about what I want them to take away from a potential experience with my work. The best I could hope for is that it would be as meditative of an experience for them as it is for me. Though I’m interested in escaping the traditional confines of the art object my goal isn’t to be self effacing or eliminate the necessity to create an object but rather to provide the conditions for the viewer (and myself) to also perceive themselves as an object or product. I think that’s the ultimate goal of art in the modern age as more and more money pours into the art market and it increasingly reflects the capitalist goals of owning art as an investment which influences the works of art that are produced and ultimately erodes the already questionable integrity of American culture.

Make sure to follow Matthew Koons‘ artwork and his adventures on his Instagram, @mgkoons

Last modified: May 1, 2015