Mat Gleason is one of those guys you will pray you will meet at a cocktail party. Mat is an art critic for the Huffington Post and a baseball writer for SBNationLA and Halos Heaven, an Angels’ blogging site where he writes under the name Rev Halofan. In his bio he includes this quote from Phillip Kennicot, Washington Post, "Mat Gleason, a maverick LA art critic, is insufferably cynical, always 'on' with a glib comment." He is the founder of CoaguLa art journal (Coagula.net) which was described as “Influenced equally by Mad magazine, the National Enquirer, and the muckraking investigative journalist I. F. Stone, Gleason has passionately ridiculed the ridiculous and promoted the unsung for two decades.” In lieu of meeting him at a cocktail party, here’s Three Up/Three Down with Mat Gleason:
1. Oh, Mat! You are an art critic and an Angles blogger, do you ever find your worlds colliding beyond Arte Moreno?
After the lousy contracts the Angels have taken on these past few seasons. I am terrified to think of how bad Arte Moreno’s finances would fare if he ever got bit by the Warhol bug. I’m well known in the LA art world and people come up and start conversations all the time, so I am use to that but once in a while someone will walk up at an art thing and ask if I am Rev Halofan, so it is all “oops, shift gears, talk baseball”. Beyond that, blogging about baseball has been a tremendous boost for my art writing, as SB Nation from the start wanted the focus to be on creating communities and accepting civil dissension in comment threads as the norm.
So fast forward six years and my art reviews on the Huffington Post have enraged people but I have a seven-year headstart arguing with 20 year old guys who have never been laid about their favorite player or favorite stat. Baseball writing relies on accurate reporting of the numeric facts and then finding the relevance of those numbers to inspire passion. You get busted hard by your commenters if you do not do all that at a high level regularly. When I get sloppy, they let me know with a torrent. Most art writing out there is about pretending to be smarter than everyone and privileging an elite hierarchy to substantiate the claim that certain objects are of almost divine importance. I hate bland and academic arts discussions so my art writing is a striving for lucidity – like that sentence about sportswriting, just substitute “visual culture” for “numeric facts” and that is my art criticism. The average baseball blog commenters are more merciless and vicious and brilliant and care way more about baseball than almost anyone in the arts cares for the field. When an art reader is rabid against what I write it is usually because it compromises their personal taste – sorta like a drunk Red Sox fan trying to stir up shit on Halos Heaven, it is like: Oh this is going to be fun, do I retort with Pumpsie Green or pink hats?
2. You are stuck in the elevator with Angels’ GM Tony Reagins, what’s the conversation like?
Anything I say can and will be used against me.
3. You wrote a piece for Huff Post entitled the Ten Most Overrated Artists in Art History in which you wrote that “The St Louis Cardinals have more World Series rings than LDV (Leonardo Da Vinci has paintings verifiably made entirely by his own hand.” Give me at least three ballplayers you consider overrated and why?
Player #1: The All Star – when the Angels stupidly traded for Vernon Wells they repeated this tripe, “We just acquired an All-Star”. All that “All Star” means to me is that the dude’s best years are probably behind him.
Player #2: The Intangible Winner – Mister Spock turns to Captain Kirk and says: human rationalism has been dead for centuries. It died the day the millionth Derek Jeter jersey was sold at the Yankee team store. Kirk asks who was Jeter. Spock says: History books tell us it was a woman who played shortstop almost as a good as a man who was surrounded by such a talented team that instead of believing in the team, fans began to explain the success of the team by the presence of this woman on the field who could play shortstop almost as a good as a man. They eventually labeled her a winner. There was never any tangible proof of this. Kirk asks if she was hot. Spock says: Women believed that Jeter had a nice ass. Kirk: Logic or not, that’s a winner in my book.
Player #3: The pleasant Ex-Jock – Every team has one in the booth sitting alongside your play-by-play man and if you watch too much baseball in your lifetime god lets you know this by suddenly making it unbearable to hear another old jock discuss “staying within your mechanics” or “taking it one game at a time”. The Angels have Mark Gubicza at the helm and fits the bill of inoffensive corporate yes-men who do the job to a level of mediocre pablum that is acceptable to the front office douchebags in suits. I like it when an ex-Jock has personality and an edge to himself, like Rex Hudler used to do TV for Angels games, he had personality and spunk, he was kind of a clown, kind of the guy who can still kick your ass. The corporately slick ex-jock with no intellectual range or deep situational insight speaking in cliches... it ruins the entertainment product.
Mat Gleason can be followed on Twitter: @CoagulaMagazine