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Brooklyn Street Art

…loves you more every day.

Talking With Crash About Popeye and The Houston Wall

Posted on March 20, 2013

He first wrote “Crash” on New York streets and trains in 1974 but he still finds ways to entertain and challenge himself artistically. Now managing a successful gallery career that has him globe trotting much of the year, John Matos considers himself a closet pop artist, and the similarities to Lichtenstein and Rosenquist are always there, along with his nostalgia for pop iconography. But at his heart he’s still a graffiti writer from the South Bronx and that’s why he invoked the collaborative energy of the Tats Cru and other friends when putting up his latest public work – a mural for the Houston Wall now on display in New York’s lower Manhattan at the corner of Bowery.

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A week after completing his part of collaboration on the same wall for photographer Martha Coopers’ birthday with artists other old school train bombers and friends, Crash hit this wall hard like Popeye, the sailor man. “The mural on Houston Street – an accomplishment for sure,” says Crash as he surveys the expanse that took about a week to complete and that will run into summer for everybody to see.

Brooklyn Street Art: Can you talk about the piece that you just finished?
Crash: When I was approached to paint it, I felt the weight of over 30 years of painters that I’ve admired and felt it an honor to be someone to be added to that group. The piece was meant to depict the mix of Pop and Graff/Street art and how it’s developed in the last 40 years.

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: How did Popeye work his way into the show? Is he an old friend, or does he just have a good PR agent?
Crash: I wanted to do a very Pop image that is known throughout history…I thought that Popeye would be a cool image. I painted Popeye recently for an installation at a museum/foundation in Switzerland and the beauty of nostalgia hit home, so I thought, “Why not do it again?”

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Did you have any help on this job?
Crash: Basically I had some young people come in to help block out areas of the wall using a simple acrylic enamel – which would make it mush easier to fill and blend the spray paint with. With them I was able to basically fill in about half of this incredibly large wall on the first day. Then on Thursday, The Tats Cru rolled by. They are family, so they came by and they helped some with the stars and stripes motif on the right side of the wall. Otherwise it was all me for three long days, but it was great fun and it always brings me back to the early subways…awesome.

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You did a cool collaboration on Martha Cooper’s birthday wall with Daze last week. Do you remember the first time Martha photographed your work?
Crash: The first time Martha photographed me was at her studio, I think in 1980 or ’81 – and she has photographed me ever since – a long association for sure

Brooklyn Street Art:  Have you seen any good graff or street art recently?
Crash: There is some great art being made all around the world. There are so many artists out there and I don’t want to let any one out, so I don’t want to list any names and miss somebody.

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Bristol based Street Artist Nick Walker stopped by to see Crash at work. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Photographer Joe Conzo’s reflection in a car window as he chats with Crash. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Getting the shot. Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crash (photo © Jaime Rojo)