In preparation for our two-person "Heads Up!" exhibition, we sat down with Matt Ritchie and Miles Ritchie to get the story behind their new portrait work, and how their father-son relationship has allowed them to bounce inspiration off of each other. Read on for a sneak peek at the interview by our gallery manager, Lyndsie Fox, published by Juxtapoz Magazine...
Lyndsie Fox: You guys have played around with so many different presentations in your previous show themes - encasing small works in compartmentalized displays as a nod to your many collections/collecting habits, using posture/figurative movement in your "slump" series to convey "an exhausted look at exhausted pop", and even forgoing faces/bodies altogether through object personification. Why the head-on, facial portraits for this collection? What messages or character traits are you trying to explore in this format?
Matt Ritchie: Yeah, in our joint Pop Perspective show [at Recess’ sister gallery Spoke Art], I was the one who did the slumped pieces. A kind of exhaustive look on exhausted pop theme. Miles was already on the portrait format at that show. For me, doing the head-on approach along with Miles was an opportunity to meet Miles in the middle and cover the same ground in our own ways. I’ve done a lot of shows and themes in the past couple decades. A lot of concept-heavy themes. This show is pretty linear. This was an opportunity to delve into my life-long passion of comic book collecting. It’s a very specific show!
There are a couple great nods to non comic book characters in this show, for example, Miles' portrait of Gorillaz's "Stuart" and Matt's Kiss x Scooby Doo crossover "Kids." Beyond these two musical works, are there any other "hidden" Easter eggs we can expect to find in Heads Up!?
Miles Ritchie: People who were able to view Heads Up! in person or online likely noticed that my pieces weren’t labeled with their literal names, but rather nicknames or references to their respective IP. Like “Stuart” being the birth name of the character widely known as 2-D from Gorillaz, or “Maggots” being used to refer to David from Lost Boys based on his iconic dialogue from the movie. However, a bigger Easter egg that I snuck in amongst my wooden replicants, was a mystery portrait entitled “Wizzy.” Rather than a pop culture icon, this piece was actually based off of the insanely talented artist (and one of my closest friends) Jonathan Way$hak. Jon hates having his picture taken, but he couldn’t stop me from including him in this show!
That explains it! Everyone’s been trying to crack that “Wizzy” portrait for weeks.
Matt: I added a couple pieces that are of my own creation or co-creation! The Alphanimals are a bunch of characters that I created specifically for Heads Up! All the characters have their own back story, complete with a villain! I have an original Alphanimals painting, plus two pins and a sticker sheet available in the show. The other originals characters in Heads Up! are the Astralnauts, who were co-created by myself and my good friend Alex Pardee for our 2 person show titled Astralnauts at Gallery 1988 in 2016. I love these characters and am very proud of the world I built with Alex. I’ve included an original painting plus a limited-edition print of the Astralnauts in this collection.
Do you have any words of advice for non "comic book nerds" who want to enjoy your work without the same history and connection to the characters you recreate?
Miles: I believe our work can be enjoyed by various demographics regardless of their comic book, or even general pop culture, knowledge. The pieces are bright and engaging - even more so on a technical level when you realize every piece is cut and painted entirely by hand. There’s a lot to enjoy no matter what you’re into!
Matt: At this point superheroes are ubiquitous. Anybody can relate to the content of this show at least on some level. Personally, I painted about 300 individual heads for this show. Hopefully, someone could connect to at least one of them!
Click HERE to read the full interview on Juxtapoz!