October 2008

Black Magic

Mattia Biagi transforms the spirit of everyday objects through the alchemy of tar  by Mayer Rus / portrait by Scott Council

Mattia Biagi, artist with works, cuckoo clock, little red riding hood

The inspiration for Mattia Biagi’s body of work did not descend from above in some form of divine epiphany. He literally stepped in it. When Biagi first visited Los Angeles in 2001, a tourist jaunt to LACMA brought the Italian artist to the banks of the La Brea Tar Pits.

He was mesmerized by the sticky black material and couldn’t stop himself from dipping a sneaker into one of the small tar pools that crop up along the periphery. Later that year, the former fashion model moved to L.A. and began to pursue his tar experiments in earnest.

Biagi spent several years exploring the technical properties of his signature material, as well as the conceptual possibilities of tar as a signifier of desuetude and decay. He gained international attention with tar-dipped teddy bears, then expanded into paintings, furniture, guns and, more recently, a collection of cuckoo clocks.

Biagi’s work is represented in Los Angeles by Twentieth, a gallery of cutting-edge design and art on Beverly Boulevard. Next month, he is mounting his most ambitious show to date in the soaring lobby of a 1920s downtown building. The show, entitled “We Are All Guilty, We Are All Victims, and I Am the First One...,” features a tar-dipped harp, a squadron of model planes and a larger-than-life sculpture representing the artist’s fractured take on the fairy tale of “Little Red Riding Hood.” November 14–December 7, 627 S. Carondelet St., mattiabiagi.com, twentieth.net.