Who knew that graffiti could save lives? Certainly renowned graffiti artist John ‘CRASH’ Matos, who premiered his new art exhibit “Back to the Block” at Antiquorum gallery in Midtown NYC Wednesday evening. CRASH’s exhibit, which runs from September 13 to October 6, featured approximately 12 new pieces and watches that will be on sale at Antiquorum. All proceeds will go towards the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA).
NewNowNext caught up with the graffiti aficionado to talk about his exhibit and how he’s helping millions in the process.
Dey A: First of all, I just wanted to say that you have an amazing exhibit.
CRASH: Oh thank you, thank you very much.
DA: So I’ve actually read somewhere that you started tagging subway cars in high school. When was the very first moment that you realized you wanted to do graffiti art?
C: Well, I grew up around it. I grew up in the projects in South Bronx and there were guys that were older than I that were doing it and I was fascinated by it, so like with anything else you just catch onto it.
DA: And since graffiti art been around since even before the 80’s, how has graffiti art evolved since then?
C: The big part of it is that it’s not longer on the subways. And what’s happened is guys are starting to take it into the studio and we sort of developed it into different things, different ideas, not being afraid of mixing paints. I think that’s the biggest thing that it evolved, in a studio setting you can only grow.
DA: This exhibit is called “Back to the Block.” What would you say about your new art pieces actually brings them back to the block for you?
C: Well, a lot of the imagery touches back to the late 70’s, early 80’s, like when you see the gold medallions with the names, and then a lot of references to the graffiti, the streets. The title is because I used to be represented by a gallery on 42nd Street, so it’s kind of cool coming back into the block and doing something again.
DA: What inspired you to donate your earnings for this exhibit to AIDS research?
C: I grew up…well, I don’t know how old you are, but I’ve known a lot of guys who were afflicted by AIDS, but we didn’t know what it was because it was still very, very, very new and people were dropping, we were like, “what’s going on?” There were guys who I grew up with, guys who I knew. I mean one cat got it through blood transfusion, so y’know it became something where it’s important to let people know about it, and then what we’re going to do about it. The thing with ACRIA is they help bring resources to people who can’t afford it, and they treat you the same as anybody else, so it’s a great thing and I’m so proud to work with them.
DA: It’s been decades since the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been brought to our attention. How has HIV/AIDS changed your life, whether personally or in the world around you?
C: A lot of people who I grew up with are no longer around. You have people like Keith Haring that, who knows, how much greater it could have been, personal friends who their lives got cut short. They could have been great musicians, great athletes, great dancers, I don’t know. We missed that, so who knows what could have happened and that’s the biggest tragedy. I mean besides a loss of life, but what they could have contributed to society is what sucks.
Dey Armbrister (@DeyTimePhoenix) wants to tag some trains for craps and giggles.