The art of John "Crash" Matos opens at Fairfield University's Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery January 28


"... he took graffiti from the subways and the streets and brought it to the forefront of the art world ... Graffiti is the art of the people."
Anna Matos, Fairfield University junior and daughter of John Matos

Image: Crash exhibitThe Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts presents The Art of John "Crash" Matos, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010 through Feb. 28, 2010. Matos, a world-famous artist whose career began surreptitiously in the mid 1970s at the age of thirteen in the train yards of the South Bronx, will attend the opening reception from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Admission is free and the public of all ages is welcome. The exhibition is part of Fairfield University's 2009-2010 Arts & Minds series and is a feature of Latin America: Images, Dialogue and Action, one of three areas of focus selected by the Fairfield University community for this year.

The retrospective, which spans a career from the mid 1970s to work as current as last week, features a collaborative mural Matos will create the week prior to the opening with a select group of Bridgeport Central High School students, "Crashocasters" (hand-painted Fender guitars), hand-decorated pottery, canvases, photos of early work on subway cars and a lobby display that is likely to include a hand-painted car.

Born in the Bronx, New York in 1961, Matos' earliest medium was spray-paint on subway cars and dilapidated buildings. The subway cars became a travelling art show throughout New York City's boroughs and Matos' work was noticed. As he got older he transferred his art from the street to canvases and his work is exhibited at museums and galleries worldwide.

His paintings are in collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Galerie d'Arte Moderna, Bologna, Italy, the Groniger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands, The New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans as well as many private collections including the Nellens Family Collection, Knokke, Belgium, Speerstra Family Collection, Monaco and John Leguizamo and Family, New York.

In 1996 Matos painted a signature Stratocaster for musician Eric Clapton and gave it to the artist as a gift. Clapton used this guitar throughout his 2001 tour. In total Matos has created five guitars for Clapton and was commissioned by Fender Musical Instruments for 50 guitars in the same style as Clapton's guitar. It was Clapton's guitar technician, Lee Dickson, who coined the term, "Crashocasters," which stuck.

In the Jesuit tradition, Matos maintains a connection to the community and his collaboration with the Central High School students is, as he says, "an opportunity for the students to come to the University and work on the campus."

He acknowledges that validation for his early work was in short supply, in fact, he became accustomed to furtive glances over his shoulder while spray-painting subway cars to avoid encounters with the police. Matos' daughter Anna, a junior at Fairfield University majoring in Art History, describes her dad as "still that same teen from the South Bronx sneaking into the train yards at night to have fun."

Matos observed that university exhibitions bring out entire families, "The parents grew up with my work and they are anxious to pass that experience along to their own children."

Fairfield University has an ongoing financial commitment to provide a full tuition scholarship to one student each year from each of its Bridgeport Community Partner High Schools: Bassick, Harding, Central and Kolbe-Cathedral. In that context, the University expresses its gratitude to Matos for welcoming the Central High School students to the campus for this artistic collaboration.

Admission to the gallery is free. The hours are: Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday: Noon to 4 p.m. Closed Monday. The gallery is always open when performances occur at the Quick Center for the Arts.

Directions: Fairfield University is located off I-95, exit 22 at 1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield, CT 06824.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 17, 2009

Vol. 42, No. 148