Merging Worlds with MBG ArtLEFAIR
Written By: Jaye Younkin
Matt Brown, otherwise known as MBG, is a self-taught artist from Cleveland who combines classic skilled art with pop culture, merging the past and present in his work. Internationally acknowledged, his work can be found in various galleries in New York City, Chicago, Santa Barbara, Miami, Tokyo, the French Riviera, and coming this summer, Washington DC. Inspired by his mom who was also an artist, MBG started taking art seriously in his early 20s and sold his first painting at age 24. Eventually, he relocated from Cleveland to Santa Barbara where he’s now surrounded by inspiration and like-minded creative thinkers.
In the beginning, MBG started working on a small scale, but as his work progressed, he says, “my imagination would not let me stay small” and so he mostly works on larger scales now. Not set in stone, he reverts back to small canvases for commissioned pieces and still experiments with working on smaller surfaces.
It’s impossible to ignore his colorful and fantasized portraits that speak directly to whoever’s viewing them. He says, “it depends on what I’m feeling, but as it stands, the human condition has my attention.” MBG uses a technique in his portraits called “layering” that developed naturally as his signature style, where he uses blocks of colors to distinguish separate planes of the face. Even though the colors aren’t natural skin tones– considering his primary colors are variations of orange, blue, and grey– the structure of the face seamingly comes together as one. His portrait goal is to “immortalize that moment.” He adds, “I want the viewer to see what could be, how colors and expression brings forth emotion in various ways. I want the viewer… to imagine a new world.” MBG manages to bring familiar faces into his own world and takes the viewer right there with him.
Switching between acrylic paint and spray paint, and frequently combining them to compliment his colorful and eccentric style, MBG also creates graffiti-like pop culture pieces. He says that he intends to “mix pop culture with thought-provoking content.” Matt brings up an interesting point about pop art which we can reference back to the leading figure in the movement, Andy Warhol. He says pop art has been “watered down” with the same stencil, screen print, and design. A great aspect about Warhol’s work and other pop art artists that came after him, was that their work could be reproduced an infinite number of times which was great for consumerism, but that unfortunately also removed the unique and skillful quality of art that could not be reproduced. Although MBG uses popular visuals like the Chanel logo for example, they’re always hand drawn. He says, “I intend to bring something new to the genre.” One of his most popular series is called “Goldmouf Givenchy” that depicts a panda bear with gold teeth– a grill– and wearing Givenchy— although he can’t explain his artistic decisions, “a multitude of lightbulbs came on” and it just worked.
While he wants to encourage new thoughts and ideas for his viewers, his pop culture graffiti work also has a personal meaning for MBG. He says that for him, the work communicates order and chaos. “I’ve been told that I overthink things too much– some call me a perfectionist. My mind races to no end. Everything is planned. However in my most recent series, I’ve incorporated what I call a freestyle spray (chaos) then I come on top of it with a thought out subject (order).” Just like he combines two worlds of fantasy and realism with his portraits, he combines two worlds with this other work as well, forcing him to find the perfect balance.
With the depiction of well known brands like Givenchy and Chanel, it’s clear that MBG’s work has huge advertising potential. He says that he’s currently talking with fashion lines in LA and NYC for some exciting future collaborations. In the past, he has worked mostly with private celebrity clientele, but is willing to work with a larger audience.
While finding balance in his work, MBG also focuses on balancing his personal life which is the most challenging part of any creative individual. He says that when he has a creative block, he either starts something else or just waits it out. “I’ve learned the hard way not to force the issue” he says.
MBG consistently adds exciting and surprising experimental qualities to his work, so you can be sure of one thing: “regardless of the medium, it will be authentic, original, and real.” His biggest career goal is to spark minds and encourage masses of viewers to think for themselves, question things, and free the mind. You can contact MBG at his website where you can find his email or direct message through his Instagram.