John Matos’ pop art prints to be on
view thru March 28
(Posted to Fairfield.Patch.com 3/5)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Fairfield, CT – You might call it a crash landing, but without any debris or injuries. In fact, the only after effects were smiles and amusement.
The “crash” in this case is graffiti artist John “Crash” Matos, whose uniquely personalized iconic work touched down Friday March 4 with an opening reception at Southport Galleries, 330 Pequot Avenue. Nearly 30 prints in all are being shown in the exhibit, which will run through March 28.
“We introduce a new exhibit the first Friday of every month,” said gallery co-manager Sarah Biggers. “Our advisor, Dr. Philip Eliasoph, at Fairfield University, suggested we book Crash given the popularity of his exhibit at the university early last year. We, as a gallery in conservative Southport, CT, could easily exhibit boats and seascapes, but we really want to be more edgy and surprising. We’ve started showing more contemporary work, which is still family friendly.”
Matos, who gained his nickname after causing a glitch that affected his school’s computer system, got his start in the South Bronx, graffiti tagging subway trains and streets. He took the work mainstream and experimented with oil paints, acrylics, pastels and watercolors to effect unique pop art that puzzles and plays on the imagination.
Matos’ work has even extended to the faces of guitars, which have hence been dubbed “Crashocasters”, spurred on by noted musicians like Eric Clapton.
Matos’ breakout show occurred at Real Art Ways, a loft space in Hartford, CT, in 1981. Fast forward 30 years and the 49-year-old remains committed to his craft and pushing the envelope with his unique expressionism.
Studying Matos’ work, Ryan Drake of Bridgeport, attending with Shawn Rafalski of Fairfield, said, “We both teach at Fairfield University and Crash exhibited there last year,” said Drake. “When we heard about this, we wanted to come and see additional pieces that weren’t included in that show. I like the dynamism, violence, juxtaposition and starkness of the work. It’s very interesting. These are not quiet contemplative pieces by any means.”
Gallery co-manager Katherine Cissel said Matos’ work was a new path for the gallery. “We don’t have anything like him here. I love pop. Lichtenstein is one of my favorite artists. Crash takes that type of work in a new direction and adds his own spin.”
Matos, himself, agreed with Cissel’s assessment. “When I was delivering the work last week, I noticed it’s very different from the current art here. I wasn’t sure it would work, but it blends well. The last couple of months, I’ve had a new resurgence in my painting, which is to be expected at a certain age. At 50, hopefully you don’t have to rush anymore. There’s enough of a body of work so you can kick back a little.”
Matos added, “I think you have to go for it, change up your style. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s never a failure… all a learning process. You stop learning, you start dying.”
Kristen Matos, 17, John’s daughter, was on hand for the opening. “I really love living with a dad that’s an artist, and telling people my dad is an artist. I’m inspired by his work, but right now I’m drawing for fun. My real expression is through dancing, art of the body.”
Matos’ wife, Margarita, was also present and spoke about the artist’s process. “John does his work in his own space, but shows me as he completes things. He says, ‘What do you think about this?’ Whether I like it or not though, doesn’t matter. I actually inspired a piece when we were first dating, that he titled ‘Margie’. That was kind of neat.”
Admiring a piece titled ‘Piece Fire’, Shelly Harvey of Fairfield said, “I know his work and lived in NYC when Keith Haring was huge. That was my intro to graffiti art. Crash carries on the tradition. It’s fantastic to have him in our backyard with his show. I really like his use of color and the comic feel of the work. It’s reminiscent of comics from the 40s.”
Show attendee Tracey Thomas of Fairfield, co-founder of VENU Magazine, said, “I’m a huge Crash fan. We featured him as our cover story in our debut issue. This is a completely different show than the university show, which was three-dimensional and spray paint on canvas. I like the prints, particularly the piece on aluminum. It’s so cool.”
Dr. Eliasoph, who introduced the artist to the gathering, summed up how far Matos has come. “Can you imagine it’s 1968 and he’s running down the tracks with a can of spray paint in his hand fleeing the transit police and now world collectors are chasing him for his work.”