/ Art

TEXT BY MOLLY SIMMS. PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEFAN KOCEV. 12/27/2017

MATT DIGIACOMO

Matt DiGiacomo was always a doodler. In fact, growing up in Malibu, he remembers being reprimanded for it regularly. “I always had teachers who told me to stop doodling; I was constantly drawing on the corners of my papers,” he says. “Weird big-eyed faces with exaggerated eyeballs, skeletons and people with messed-up-looking limbs … I never really took art seriously, though. I still don’t. I guess I’ve just always been drawing.”

His biggest influences—aside from Basquiat, Picasso, Ralph Steadman and Tim Burton—were the punk rock and surf culture DiGiacomo grew up around. “Surf culture not in the way we see it today,” he says, “but the ’80s and early ’90s kind. That ‘you can’t tell us what to do’ attitude. When I was a little kid, there was a record store in Malibu that sold punk-rock CDs and tapes, and I’d visit all the time. I’ve always been obsessed with that whole music scene, especially the flyers, which I’d try to copy and mimic in my own way.”

 

 

For the past five and a half years, he’s been working on a project with much higher stakes: DiGiacomo’s been tapped to collaborate with luxury L.A. clothing line Chrome Hearts, for a series of garments that bear his signature illustrations. “The creative freedom they’ve given me has been so vast—there’s never really been any serious direction or instructions,” he says. “They just told me, ‘We see that you draw on your clothes; go do that for us.’ And I was like, ‘Really? You want me to draw on $5,000 leather jackets? All right!’ ”

It’s been a wild ride for DiGiacomo, who’s continually impressed by the audience response to his work. “It’s still baffling to me that these pieces are held in such high esteem. In my head, I’m just doodling on clothes. I always try not to overthink things, because that’s never gotten me anywhere.”

 

 

When he’s not making art, DiGiacomo keeps himself busy with a decidedly nonartistic pursuit: “I’ll buy a motorcycle, rip it apart, put it back together, then sell it and then do it again,” he says. “If I’m not painting, I’m generally tearing things apart. I bought my first motorcycle when I was 18 and knew nothing; now I’m 26 and I know a little bit.” For him, it’s both pragmatic and born of curiosity. “It’s weird that everyone uses cars and motors but no one really understands how they work, so I wanted to learn.”

Ultimately, while DiGiacomo fell into his art career, he knew he’d eventually make his mark in some form. “I always wanted to make something that no one else could,” he says. “Now it’s what I try to do with my art. I’m going to do it this way no matter what other people think—that’s my aesthetic.”

 

 

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