In the mid-1970s, John Matos (b. 1961, New York, New York, U.S.) adopted the name CRASH and at the age of 13, began writing graffiti on the Bronx subway lines. He credits his early attraction to the bold colors of graffiti to his Puerto Rican roots: “We love color, we love movement and graffiti actually is that.” By the end of the decade, he had joined fellow artists KEL, DAZE, Zephyr, DONDI and FUTURA in a studio set up by patron Sam Esses where they painted graffiti on canvas. In 1980, CRASH curated the seminal show GAS: Graffiti Art Success, which was presented at the Bronx gallery Fashion Moda (and numerous pieces then traveled to the New Museum of Contemporary Art in Lower Manhattan), anticipating the commercial art world’s rising interest in graffiti. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally; he traveled to Spain, France and Holland to paint murals. Whereas many New York artists went on long creative hiatuses when graffiti fell out of favor with galleries in the late 1980s, CRASH, along with longtime studio mate DAZE, has been one of the movement’s most consistent practitioners. His distinctive style brings together graffiti lettering and portraiture with Pop Art touches, such as comic book backgrounds and Ben-Day dots. His recent projects include works for gallery exhibitions, community murals created with fellow Bronx artists Tats Cru, and specially painted Fender Stratocaster guitars for musician Eric Clapton—which led Fender to commission CRASH to design his own line of guitars, called Crashocaster.
Photo © Katie Settel. Courtesy of the artist.