Matt Gondek, a Los Angeles based visionary, disrupting the art scene with a rebellious punk rock spirit and a vivid pop color palette, streaked in all of his dismantled cartoon icons. Born in 1982, Gondek’s creative voice echoes the 90s and 00s experience, channeling through his art, the relentless search for meaning amidst the chaos of life.
A self-taught artist and savvy entrepreneur, Gondek has not only carved a niche for himself but also gained notoriety and popularity for his distinctive, eye-catching style that has been showcased worldwide, such as at the Anzai Gallery (Tokyo), and various galleries in Singapore and Paris. His art dismantles visual references popularized by Disney, Simpsons and more over Television, a contemporary act and process of slaughtering modern-day gods, disarming them of the power they have over our childhood. Celebrity clients, including J Balvin and The Weeknd, will attest to the universal allure of his work.
Beyond his canvas, Gondek is the host and founder of the Clean Break Podcast, a captivating platform where influential artists such as Alex Pardee, 123 Klan and more, share stories and insider-talks on navigating the intricate realms of the art world. His gloriously fierce meditations in mayhem, infused with dark humour, expose societal aggression and mock our inherent flaws. Drawing inspiration from MTV culture which he grew up with, Gondek, artist impresario serves as a deranged train conductor, smashing into artistic frontiers without warning, where no one is safe but the possibility of emerging alive is ever-present.
Matt Gondek’s art is a visceral exploration of survival, primal instincts, and the unapologetic celebration of rebellion and destruction. We speak with him to get a glimpse into his creative process.
Popspoken: Your work is known for its unique take on pop culture icons. What or who are some of your major artistic influences or inspirations?
Matt Gondek: I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of Andy Warhol. He cast a huge shadow over the city and influenced my thoughts on running an art practice. However, my favorite artist is Roy Lichtenstein.
More contemporary artists include people like Jeff Koons, Murakami, and KAWS, who were able to elevate their art beyond themselves.
Popspoken: Your art often features deconstructed and reimagined pop culture characters. What draws you to this theme, and what message(s) or emotion(s) do you aim to convey through it?
Matt Gondek: When you consider classical artwork in museums, a significant portion of it revolves around themes of royalty and religion. During the times those works were created, monarchy and the church were daily fixtures in popular culture. However, fast forward to 2023, and these influences have waned. Instead, we find icons like Mickey Mouse and Bart Simpson taking their place. In a way, these characters can be seen as our modern-day gods. Given my upbringing with a punk mindset focused on anti-conformity, my work aims to deconstruct those in power, which now includes these characters.
I call my style “Deconstructive Pop Art”.
Popspoken: Can you walk us through your typical creative process when starting a new piece? Do you begin with a specific concept or idea, or does it evolve as you work?
Matt Gondek: Ideas for paintings just occur naturally. Sometimes, it happens when I’m driving, and other times, it comes to me while I’m out on a walk. Once I have an idea, I begin gathering reference images from online sources, the library in downtown LA, and the materials I have here in my studio. I then draw out all my ideas on the computer, as that’s how I learned to draw quickly during my days as a freelance illustrator.
Popspoken: You work with various mediums, from paintings to sculptures and NFTs. How do you decide which medium to use for a particular project, and how do they influence your creative process?
Matt Gondek: It’s really just a natural process. While I’m brainstorming ideas, I often realize that they could be more interesting as sculptures, t-shirts, or other forms of art. Your art is known for its bold colors and dynamic compositions.
Popspoken: Share with us your mood boards and how you derived some of your recent works?
Matt Gondek: This moodboard is a pretty good representation of where I’m at with my work now. While I do love bold colors, linework is also very important to me, as well as nods to my favorite artist Roy Lichtenstein. When I’m coming up with new concepts, I try to keep those things in mind.
Popspoken: In the digital age, NFTs have become a significant part of the art world. How do you view the intersection of traditional art and digital art, and what has your experience been like with NFTs? Share with us some success and failures in your journey.
Matt Gondek: I think the acceptance of digital artwork is great. I began my art career as a digital artist. The main reason I transitioned to painting was the feeling that no one was taking anything I created on the computer seriously.
I’ve had a lot of success with NFTs, as my work naturally translates well to that medium. While it’s been great to explore a new platform, the biggest challenge I’ve encountered is educating my physical art collectors about the digital realm and encouraging them to collect there (and vice versa). There doesn’t seem to be a lot of collectors who engage in both. To address this, we did a project called “Fight Club,” where we paired a digital piece with a physical one. Each NFT came with a custom hand-painted baseball bat, which collectors obtained by “burning” their digital NFT. I was shocked to see how many collectors purchased the digital NFT but never used it to obtain the physical piece. The digital collectors weren’t interested in the physical component, and I was surprised by this response.
Popspoken: Your work has gained a substantial following and international fanbase. How does the audience’s response influence your artistic direction or choices?
Matt Gondek: I think when you’re just starting out, and no one cares yet, you’re free to create whatever you want. As you start getting noticed, with that comes sales, attention, and, for me, the fear that it could all go away at any moment. For a few years, I let that fear dictate many of my actions, always afraid to upset my fanbase or try new things.
Over time, I’ve learned to let go of that fear, and by doing so, I’ve allowed myself to explore new ideas. Currently, I’m working on a series of 104 small paintings that all fit together. The title of the project is “Do What You Want,” and it’s a homage to my old work, new ideas, and exactly what I want to paint with no outside influences.