Shape of Things to Come: John CRASH Matos

JoAnne Artman Gallery
Nov 14, 2022 7:17PM

In John “CRASH” Matos’ latest show, Shape of Things to Come, the longtime graffiti artist has abandoned the conventional rectangular canvas and its inherent limitations, highlighting his technical prowess as well as his sharp creative instincts.

In some ways, Crash’s new work reflects his return to his roots of subway graffiti in the 1980s. When the metal subway cars were his canvas, his work was breaking boundaries: literally, of New York’s geographical limits, and figuratively, of the art world’s stifling traditions. They contained an innately fluid quality as the medium allowed them to travel beyond a gallery space. These new canvasesshare that same fluidity, as they adopt biomorphic forms that feel alive in their surroundings.

Energy pulses through Crash’s work with fragmented shapes, bright colors, and the motif of a glaring white light. The compositions are pressed up against the picture plane, suggesting an infinite continuation of the scene beyond the canvas while engulfing the viewer. In Untitled (Hot Pink Letters), the lively but unrecognizable scene on the uniquely-shaped canvas conjures a feeling of intense curiosity and intrigue within the viewer, as a woman’s eye reveals itself only to pull away. The white light in Untitled (Blaaaam!) is like a lighthouse broadcasting to visitors, only to disappear upon their arrival. The canvas resembles a missing corner piece for a puzzle, but we’ll never know the image it was destined to complete. The longing fascination created by these pieces is never satisfied. They are alive, not only in their energy, but in their distinctly human ability to strategically withhold information. These new works reflect the artist’s personal ethos of embracing the unconventional and a dedication to exploring beyond his field of vision.

Untitled (Hot Pink Letters) is interjected by dynamic shades of blue that slash across the canvas horizontally. We are reminded of the electric current that runs through Crash’s oeuvre, uniting each piece via this charged delineation of form. He also applies Ben-Day dots, usually seen in American Pop Art from the 1960s, on a small piece of the canvas. The playful shades of pink and blue along with the extreme flatness of the paint demonstrate a Fauvist attitude of unorthodox color and line while adhering to a Pop Art tradition.

Untitled (Blaaaam!) The text is vaguely decipherable, but it has not been constructed in typical graffiti-style font. The repeating ‘A’s seem to rest on layers of abnormally-colored clouds, again exhibiting a Matisse-like approach to color. We are more aware of the disconnect between viewer and canvas in Blaaaam!, because while not intimidating or hierarchical in size, the work adopts a shape that is foreign to us, suggesting it knows something we don’t. The shining light on the top of the canvas prompts the viewer to wonder where exactly they are. Are we looking at a light, or a reflection of one? Considering the viewer is always left wondering, perhaps the light motif is a playful reminder that we are always a little bit “in the dark”.

JoAnne Artman Gallery