In the studio of Mathis Altmann

Exterior view of Mathis Altmann's current studio
All images courtesy of Mathis Altmann

In Zürich Mathis Altmann was involved in founding a number of artist-run spaces, such as Paloma Presents and New Jersyy, whose influence spread far beyond Switzerland. From his temporary home in sunny California, and before his upcoming presentation at Paramount Ranch 3, he reminisces about studios past and shows us his cement-covered current space in Los Angeles.

My studio situation is always pretty vague. I mostly sublet temporary studio spaces.

Last winter I sublet a place in Frog Town City, Los Angeles. In the early 1900s the streets were covered in frogs, but no one has seen them in decades. Then it became known for the Varrio Frog Town Rifa Gang (v F.T.R.), one of the oldest hispanic gangs in Los Angeles. However, with all the new design studios, gang tags are about as rare as the frogs.

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In spring I rented an abandoned factory building with friends in the heart of Zürich. It was dark - without sunlight - and the backyard was squatted by young gigolos and their pimps caught up in drug and human trafficking. The place got demolished during summer and will be replaced by an apartment complex für Alle

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Over summer I sublet a rent-controlled studio in a high modernist co-operative building designed to combine living and workspace for artists. Designed by Ernst Gisel in the early 1950s for artists by artists, it is an iconic piece of utopian architecture located in Zürich’s center, and rumored to be haunted. 

But the best thing is the infamous “Brocki” next door. It’s the best thrift store in Zürich. Built inside a former underground garage it’s not one of those overpriced flea markets, where people charge you hundreds of dollars for a lumpy piece of shabby nostalgia. You can find weird stuff for next-to-nothing.

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Currently I have access to a generic shared studio building in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Every studio looks actually like a gallery space, white walls and fluorescent light.  

The art scene here is more or less quite similiar to what we know from EU, especially right now when nearly everyone from Europe is coming to check it out and are curious about what’s really going on here right now. On the other hand the scene is also quite small and pretty much fixed to LA. In Europe you can hop around different countries and cities super quick, here it’s a bit more comlicated, you can go to NYC with a 5-6 hour flight and that’s pretty much it. 

The rhythm of LA is more during the day; it's very ruled by the sun. Bars are also closing at 2am. In Zürich it can be literally darker so it means more activity at night.

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I opened a solo show at Halle für Kunst, Lüneburg in October 2015. Since I’ve been trying out new processes, let’s call it constructive diminishment, aimed at my sculpted works, and use of heavy materials like concrete, for example. Often after finishing a show or a series I try to find ways to deconstruct certain steps or elements of existing pieces. It’s a question of how to liberate headspace, and develop parallel contexts within my practice. This usually ends up in kind of discomfort (or irony) about myself, and my work.  I have something new for Paramount Ranch but until the opening on Saturday it’s confidential. So far I only know what my friend Bea Schlingelhoff is doing which I’m looking forward to seeing of course.

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I listen to a lot of music in the studio. It’s a good chance to discover new stuff. I don’t listen too many sounds that I would DJ in a club, the studio is a space for some alternatives. Right now Bourbonese Qualk’s Album Unpop is playing. It was a British experimental music group active from 1979-2003.

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There’s a lot of books lying around at the moment, but worthy of mention is Thomas Bernhard’s Holzfällen [woodcutters]. Told in monologue by Bernhard’s distinctive Alter Ego seated in a wing-chair about an "artistic-dinner" he’s invited to, it’s a razor sharp polemical piece of literature.

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Another to mention is Mo-Leeza Roberts' sci-fiction novel Head, which has just been published by Book Works. It’s a self-identified "unreliable narrative" that operates around Head Gallery between the present and a future set in 2078.

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Mathis Altmann was born 1987 in Munich. Janurary 30-31 he will exhibit at the 3rd Paramount Ranch art fair in Los Angeles. Altmann is represented by Freedman Fitzpatrick, Los Angeles and Truth and Consequences, Geneva, where he will have a solo show in May.