Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday ProFile: Matt Langille + Vacation Time

I find the commercialization of street art so fascinating. Don’t get me wrong; you know where my preferences lie. But it blows my mind how some city kids with spray cans eventually led to Banksy’s multi-million dollar auction revenue. While street artists once worked solely in the street, now it’s a combination of collaborations. Galleries like Deitch Projects and Jonathan LeVine showcase street art indoors. Janet Bike Girl stencils and helps organize the Bicycle Film Festival. Kaws designs tee shirts for BAPE. Shepard Fairey makes posters for the president. It’s rare, but some street artists manage to transform their illicit passions into a career.
When I got an e-mail from Steve about Matt Langille, I wondered what my readers would think. While Matt has great respect for the graffiti world, he’s never worked in the street. “It’s probably because every time I step over a white line, I get arrested,” he adds. “I don’t have the best luck with NYC cops. I have spent a couple days in jail for hopping a turnstile.” With such crummy luck with the law, he channeled his creative juices elsewhere.
Matt knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist. He only had to look to his family for inspiration. His grandfather was a successful abstract artist, his older brother is a painter, and his mother dyes textiles. “I grew up drawing pirate ships with my grandfather,” he recalls. “Then I started blowing glass at eleven at an art camp called Buck’s Rock. I learned everything there like woodworking, printmaking, boutique, ceramics and glass blowing. The glass blowing really stuck with me so I ended up doing it through college, but I been doing artwork my whole life.”
While he doesn’t work on the street, Matt believes that his medium reaches a broad range of people. “A lot of people ask whether it’s selling out to put artwork on products,” he says. “Once something is sold on the shelf, you’re automatically considered a sell out. I think that’s crap. I think it’s a great way to have your artwork on all sorts of different people walking around. They’re like living canvases and other people get to experience the artwork that way.”
Matt’s latest project is a collaboration with Swatch. Back in the ‘80s, Keith Haring contributed some designs for the company’s campaign. Today, Matt’s colorful critters decorate three separate watchbands. “I haven’t seen anyone wearing my Swatches yet,” he says. “But I have a lot of clients in China that saw some big billboards with my name and watch design on them. My sister-in-law has seen my work on ads in the subway and on the streets in Barcelona.”

Whenever one project ends, Matt's already on to the next one. “I’ve got a lot of ideas,” he explains. “I’m working on a children’s book. I want to do a lot of stuff for home décor like wallpaper, interior design, and other stuff like that. I also want to do some stuff with Crayola, and maybe Sharpie. I want to collaborate with shoes maybe Nike or Converse.” While he may have big plans, Matt hasn’t allowed his success to inflate his ego. “I do a lot of cute and innocent looking work, but I’ve got a pretty filthy mouth and a huge sense of humor,” he says. “I’m just a fun guy who doesn’t take life too seriously.”

Matt’s story got me thinking. What kind of an impact is street art making on the art community? And what about the commercial community? What does it mean when advertising uses the same street tactics as artists? Can commercial art serving the same purpose as street artists? Can commercial art maintain ‘street’ sensibilities? I’d really love to get some feedback. This post is a bit out of the ordinary for me, so I’d love to hear what you guys have to say. After all, this blog is about our community! Right now, I’m heading out to Cape Cod for the week. Don’t cry, though. You can catch up on any posts you missed, take photos in your neighborhoods, and send me photos for when I get back. Have a great week and come back on August 24 for headlines, posts, and profiles. Enjoy!

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