Call it being a Renaissance Man or a Jack of All Trades; call it synergy at its finest. Whatever you call it, Bronx native John Matos, AKA Crash, is one more strong example of how easy it is to turn an innocent love of art into an empire. Easy, of course, if you have the drive, the passion, and the sense enough to keep your feet on the ground. So the story goes, Crash started as a young graffiti artist, tagging New York City subway cars at age 13. Tagging turned to full fledged imagery on the side of the trains, which then lead to silk screen on canvas, bringing him up a notch in the low brow – high brow continuum, at least in the eyes of would be dealers. By the 1980s, twenty-something Crash began exhibiting in galleries in the US and abroad. Before long Crash had parlayed his tagging hobby into a career as an artist.


For Crash, it was never about the money. Being able to do something he loves is what drives him every day. This is part of the key to creating true synergy without even trying. When luck granted him a meeting with famed musician Eric Clapton, the wheels in Crash’s mind started to turn. In 1996, Crash painted a Fender guitar and gave it to Clapton, who proceeded to take it on tour with him in 2001. Crash was so in love with his first painted Fender, he went on to create several more for Clapton. When the musician receives them, he names them, a process that, according to Crash, makes the creation of the artwork a collaboration between the two artists. These guitars have become extremely popular, even selling at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, Crash scored a deal with Fender to continue to paint their guitars, and numerous other musicians have acquired what is now called a Crashocaster guitar.


When the idea of a clothing line was proposed to him, Crash had to take a step back. Here he was, being presented with the opportunity to synergize his brand even further, and the artist’s main concern became, “will this take up too much time?” In the end, his curiosity and love of trying new things lead him to agree to the line. Still, Crash admits that it is incredibly hard work and can take up too much of his time that may have been spent painting. This little anecdote says quite a bit about the artist. He is driven by his desire to create art, not his desire to earn a buck.

Still, collaboration is an important part of being Crash. Hence the inability to say no to a clothing line. Crash has gotten close with a graphic designer by the name of Jahan, and we can expect the two of them to produce something incredible in the near future. Right now, Crash is all about loving his job, enough to not even call it a job. He pushes himself to be the best that he can, simply for the thrill, and pride, of doing so. “I didn’t go into this with dollar signs in my eyes,” he says. “You do that and you’ll fall on your face.” You might even crash and burn. Pun intended.

Leah Satlin

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  1. I have a watercolor I bought in 1989 called “Too Much”
    I would like to know what that could be worth today?
    Thank for any info that you can give.

  2. I may be related to John. I’d like for him to contact me via email Only please. I was born on Oct. 21, 1952 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Mother: Josefina Matos – Humacao,Puerto Rico. Father: Francisco Matos – Barranquitas, Puerto Rico.

    Please RSVP.

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