Interview: A Crash Course with Urban Graffiti Artist John “Crash” Matos.
by Daniel Haim
I was first introduced to John Matos by a mutual friend. It was a very casual introduction, something along the lines of “Daniel meet Crash, Crash meet Daniel”. I already knew of Cash from early work but when I discovered his collaboration with TUMI, I truly became an instant fan and a collector.
John started doing graffiti art in his early teens, spray painting New York City trains, as opposed to now: spray painting silk screened canvas. His artist career has taken him through quite a journey, in 1996 Crash painted an Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster and gave it to the artist as a gift. One of Clapton’s “Crashocasters” (nicknamed by Eric’s former guitar tech, Lee Dickson) auctioned for $321,100 by the name of “Crash-3”. Other artists such as John Mayer have used the custom painted Crashocaster guitars. Today Crash is working in a collaboration with luxury travel, business and lifestyle accessories brand Tumi..
Daniel: Thanks for taking the time and speaking to me. We met at the Tumi Tag event in New York City the other week, what an awesome collaboration I love it!
Crash: Daniel… You are most welcome and thanks for coming…
Daniel: Tell us about yourself, or like we say at Bloginity: Give us your “Artist CV”
Crash: Boring, really… I am born and raised in the Bronx, and am still living here. I’ve been painting since I was a wee little kid, and while living here, discovered the beauty of Graffiti, and when I moved to the Betances Housing Projects, started to merge my love of art and Graffiti… It eventually morphed into what is happening today.
Daniel: How did you get started with painting, Graffiti slash slash Street Art?
Crash: I got started painting Graff as a 13 year old in the South Bronx, growing up with older guys who were doing it, I got into it and eventually engrossed myself and never stopped… Well, painting that is…
Daniel:Where are you originally from, how did you get started in this business?
Crash: My family is of Puerto Rican heritage, and moved here in the early 50’s. I got involved with the gallery scene through Charlie Ahearn and his wife, Jane Dickson… She asked me to participate in painting the walls of an installation she was doing at Fashion Moda, an early “anti-space space” on 3rd Avenue in the South Bronx.
Daniel: Was art always a passion of yours?
Crash: I was always drawn to art, and being a product of the 60’s, pop art got me early…
Daniel: Do you remember your first art sale?
Crash: My first sale was in a group show that my friend, the late Keith Haring put together at the Mudd Club. Later I found out that the person who purchased my piece was Ross Bleckner… Very cool…
Daniel: When did you know that the moment has come that you finally made it as an artist?
Crash: That still hasn’t been answered yet. I’m still working hard and hitting those walls but they will eventually come down!
Daniel: What inspires you to make a great piece?
Crash: My greatest inspirations are God, my family, music, life….just breathing can get you going…
Daniel: Who are your greatest influences?
Crash: Oh man… too many to mention… Speed Racer, Gigantor, James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns, Warhol, Anime… Marvel Comics, Batman… the list just goes on and on…
Daniel: Let’s talk about the collaboration between John ‘Crash’ Matos and Tumi TAG. This collaboration benefits AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA). How did this collaboration form?
Crash: An executive saw an exhibition that I was involved with in Paris, and had the idea of doing something with Graffiti, and they decided to ask me to work on it. We also decided that we should participate with a charity, and I’ve worked with ACRIA before and with all the wonderful work they do, helping people with AIDS… I couldn’t not do this… Know what I mean…?
Daniel: What has been your most rewarding achievement as an artist?
Crash: My most rewarding achievement is probably getting respect from other artists and dealers.. That’s the truth!
Daniel: What has been your favorite work to do so far and why?
Crash: Believe it or not, even though I am still painting hard, I have yet to get there… I think I have done some power works, but I still have more to go. Ask me when I’m 60 or so…
Daniel: Have you been a fan of TUMI prior to the collaboration?
Crash: I knew of TUMI from their smaller bags, and I have friends who have their luggage, so yes, I knew of them before they approached me.
Daniel: When you were first approached by Tumi, what were your initial thoughts?
Crash: At first I was interested, but cautious not knowing what they had in mind and what I had in mind…then as they spoke to me, I became excited with the prospect of having luggage that would be traveling around the world, with all my images…
Daniel: Your work is now, pretty much, traveling around the world with these luggage. Have you seen anyone travel with the luggage yet? What would be your reaction for when you first travel and see a fella tourist, carrying a Tumi Tag?
Crash: Not yet, but it will happen before I know it…
Daniel: Has any cool relationships formed throughout this collaboration?
Crash: I met some great people who are passionate and very professional. Some things are growing from the seeds that were planted…
Daniel: Are there any additional collaboration down the road?
Crash: Well, right now, things are in an “interesting” state and I’d rather not say anything until they are concrete…
Daniel: What’s on the horizon for John ‘Crash’ Matos?
Crash: More work, more painting, more strats, more walls, more lobsters, more steaks… In other words more living to do… God bless…