Mateo Solis Prada


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By Madelyn Murphy

When sitting down for an interview with Mateo Solis Prada, it quickly became evident that separating the work from the artist himself would be a nearly impossible task, and an attempt to do so would be a terrible disservice in venturing to review his work. Equally charismatic and sentimental, Solis Prada’s personality has permeated into every corner of his multifaceted- and multisensory- piece, giving his work a distinguishable and lifelike charm. 

Picoteo consists of the most essential physical elements of a meal shared with loved ones, a small table with a pale blue tablecloth flanked by two chairs facing one another, a micro setting which welcomes the viewer to sit and stay awhile. Having been raised in Latinx culture, Solis Prada expresses the significance of his subject matter to his cultural identity, “food is such a readily accessible way to preserve our culture, essentially.” This sentiment translates flawlessly through Picoteo; breaking through the reductive western perception of food as fuel. Instead, he places the food itself on a pedestal, calling the viewer to pause and interact, an experience made accessible only when the food itself is no longer a simple promise for transient pleasure, but a holistic exhibition of life and culture.

Mateo Solis Prada, Picoteo, 2021. Photographer Stephen Apicella-Hitchcock.

Atop the table sit four vibrant ceramic plates, each framing a clay sculptural rendering of a meal that the artist himself has enjoyed with his own loved ones, adorned with glitter and gloss- honest and unabashed in its own materiality. The work itself is both nostalgic and self aware; Solis Prada hones in on a crafty, childlike vitality through his sculptures, not as if they were crafted by a child’s hands, but rather, viewed by a child’s eyes. On each chair rests a set of headphones which play an audio collage of meal preparation and consumption, accenting the immersive experience and imposing a highly intimate moment into the public gallery space. As you walk around the table, you are introduced to the artist, by the artist. On each corner of the table rests a handwritten letter beginning “Hi! It’s Mateo. I am writing to you as a part of my senior thesis project.” Each letter contains a personalized set of instructions for preparing a recipe, as Mateo described, it is “further encouragement and I guess being comfortable when it comes to trying new food. I’m sharing not just the recipe itself but the recipe through my language, and the recipe how I made it.” He has stripped down the experience of food to its most crucial and often overlooked components as it exists in his own culinary tradition: culture and connection. Mateo has effectively rendered the most raw, tender, and sentimental aspects of an otherwise seemingly mundane practice of eating food, inviting us all to get to know him and his culture.