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Sacramento artist Matt Brown has his work popping up everywhere

BY RYAN LILLIS
rlillis@sacbee.com

There are artists who live in their vans. There are artists who get some of the biggest gigs in town. And then there is Matt Brown.
Brown, 27, is a little bit of everything. He seems as comfortable digging through scraps of metal alone in a basement as he does having his work displayed in front of hundreds of people at a conference. “I can run in a lot of different realms of society,” he said.

As Sacramento’s new wave of young artists fights for space in the city’s culture, Brown seems to be everywhere. He’s a photographer, a painter and a maker of robots. He does downtown murals, hip restaurants, alleys and one of the region’s biggest musical festivals
On Friday, he created a video backdrop for a ballet performance at TEDx, a one-day event at the Community Center Theater where local innovators and techies exchanged ideas. An hour later, Brown was working in a dark computer room at Hacker Lab, the midtown coworking space that’s an incubator for artists and startups.

He was putting together the drawings and budget for a 10-foot robot suit he plans to build for this fall’s TBD Fest, the huge music festival in West Sac. Someone is going to walk around in that suit – maybe Brown – and interact with concertgoers. Brown’s thinking about creating two little aliens in the robot’s head whose mouths would move when the person inside the robot suit talks.
Brown’s work has appeared on other notable platforms. He and fellow artist Jason Bove painted a large mural at the corner of Eighth and K streets two years ago. Brown also helped curate the art for downtown’s Blackbird Kitchen and painted a mural near his photo studio off S Street in midtown. He had another painting on the 700 block of K Street.

Despite his early success, Brown doesn’t back away from showing tough love toward the local art scene. There are amazing young artists placing their marks on the urban landscape, with murals appearing on the sides of buildings and in tunnels. But Brown said many artists he knows aren’t getting attention because the people who should be supporting art tend to play it safe in this town.

“I’m not pessimistic about it; I’m getting work – cool work,” he said. “But I’m not optimistic, either, because I know a lot of Sacramento is conservative – people, the businesses and restaurant owners – and they don’t care about the arts at all.”

 

Brown was born and raised in Fair Oaks, the son of two state workers. He’s lived on a ranch in Clarksburg and at a monastery in Sri Lanka. Other home addresses for Brown have included a van and the basement of Blackbird.

 

He said he’s had a mural in midtown painted over and other work on K Street that nearby businesses didn’t like. He doesn’t seem particularly bothered when his work gets ignored or trashed. But without artists like Brown, will the culture shift in Sacramento last very long?

 

“A lot of stuff that’s being bought right now is clean and safe,” he said. “It’s weird how uptight Sacramento can be. This is a city that’s still afraid of its culture.”

Ryan Lillis: (916) 321-1085, rlillis@sacbee.com, @Ryan_Lillis
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/city-beat/article24277711.html#storylink=cpy

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/city-beat/article24277711.html#storylink=cpy

MISTER ROBOTO

TBD Fest Artist-in-Residence Matt Brown

Unassuming in a white T-shirt, dirty black jeans and a nondescript brown haircut, 28-year-old Matt Brown is kind of a big deal in Sacramento’s thriving artscape. Or, anyway, he’s getting a lot of work. Committed to art life, Brown foregoes many creature comforts in order to create rather than punch a clock—to a point where he’s been known to live in his van, outfitted with a rooftop projector.

Attendees of last year’s TBD Fest will unanimously recall his iconic laser cube art installation. This year, TBD dubbed Brown Artist-in-Residence, and he plans to up the ante by incorporating his newfound knowledge of robotics into his contributions to the festival atmosphere. Among the captivated crowds and surging excitement, Matt Brown will be low-key exhibiting his strange brand of art that combines absurdity, beauty and a healthy dose of his enjoyment of fucking with people.

In regards to the cube, Brown recounts, “Holy fuck. I think I met with Clay, and we were talking about projection stuff, and he was like, ‘I need something iconic. I want to project on the lily pads on the river,’ and I was like, ‘That doesn’t really make sense, I don’t even know how to do that. And then I thought it would be cool if there was a giant laser cube. It is what hipsters love. Shapes and mirrors.”

With the help of Matt Byrd, the cube was created. “I had no idea people were going to like it so much,” Brown smiles. But the smile fades as he remembers, “Somebody would draw a dick on it constantly, just one after another, and I don’t know why.”

For the upcoming TBD Fest, Brown has a couple of projects underway. “I am doing a robot that will move around and talk to people. I’ll be remotely controlling it in the distance and I’ll be talking to people through it. It will have a fog that it will emit if people get too crazy,” says Brown mischievously. Welded metal, dryer pieces and car stereos are among the fodder being employed in the creation of this marauding cyborg.

And then there’s the Ice Bear. “It’s going to be giving people motivational help and philosophical speeches, and it will be playing This Mortal Coil. There will be a fog machine near it creating a haze, and I’m thinking about having a laser shoot out of its mouth every once in awhile. It will be wearing gold jewelry, like bling, you know.”

Of the music lined up for this year, Brown says, “I am the most excited to see Death Grips. I’m also super stoked to see Tears for Fears; they got me through a really hard time.”

Brown has been making art for over a decade, and has been commissioned to create a body of work—from sculpture to paintings, films and video projections—for high-profile organizations like TEDx, Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery, the Sizzling Sirens burlesque troupe, Sacramento Electronic Music Festival and more. Throw a rock in any direction in Downtown Sacramento, and you’ll likely hit one of his murals (often not commissioned). “A lot of my art is temporary, just happening in real life,” explains Brown.

Brown was also literally an artist-in-residence at Exhibit S, a 12,000 square-foot art space that garnered squatting rights at Downtown Plaza in 2013 and housed other artists such as Danny Scheible (known for his Tapigami art) and Maren Conrad.

“I was moving out of my house at the time, so I was totally sleeping at the mall,” says Brown of his Exhibit S tenure. “I would shower in Assembly when it was open. It was really hard for me being in a public space trying to make art, so I had to wear a mouse mask.”

Currently residing at the Warehouse Artist Lofts on R Street, Brown is ready to go back to living in a van down by the river. “I prefer just living in a car, and I think I’m going to move to Auburn where there’s nobody around for miles. It’s very insular.”

But R Street hasn’t seen the last of Matt Brown. He’ll have an indirect hand in the R Street Block Party on Oct. 3, along with a host of other Sacramento artists, musicians, businesses and vendors.

The basement at WAL, which is a rehearsal and jam space, will be open during the R Street Block Party. “There will be a Jacob’s Ladder and some robotics, and Shaun Burner and Franceska Gamez are painting the walls,” describes Brown. “I want it to look nothing like the rest of the building at all, for people to go down there and feel like they’re going into a totally different world.”

In a totally different world, where all that matters is art and wonder—that’s where Matt Brown resides, regardless of the roof or lack thereof over his head.

"The artist at rest and in motion"
Matt Brown takes over the city with installations, videos and temporary enlightenment

By Lovelle Harris
This article was published on 09.10.15 – Sacramento News & Review

It seems like Matt Brown has a hand in just about every creative endeavor in Sacramento these days. Whether it’s partnering with the supergroup Crosses—members include Deftones singer Chino Moreno, Far guitarist Shaun Lopez and Chuck Doom—on its ethereal video for “The Epilogue,” collaborating with Carina Lampkin on large-scale outdoor projection pieces at her Blackbird Kitchen & Beer Gallery eatery or creating visual elements for local haunted houses, the Matt Brown aesthetic has permeated nearly every sector of the city’s creative community.

Up in the hills of the Gold Country at END Studio in Auburn on a recent afternoon, Brown is hard at work on his latest bit of 916 domination: several art installations for the upcoming TBD Fest, which takes place in West Sacramento, September 18-20.

And while the artist says he can’t yet share details on what he plans to unleash on the legions of attendees set to converge on the festival grounds, Brown hints that last year’s TBD contribution, an illuminated structure forged out of Plexiglas and steel, commonly referred to as “The Cube,” may make another appearance. And if it does, Brown says he’s looking for its latest iteration to be even more engaging than last year’s version.

“I want it to be more interactive, I want art to interact with people without them knowing it,” he explains.

The idea is to encourage passersby to hold up their smartphones to the installation and wait for what comes next.

“I want people to be actually jarred by it almost, and maybe that can be some kind of a vehicle for temporary enlightenment,” he says.

Brown, who calls his particular brand of art “a beautiful mess,” graduated via an independent study program in 2006 after jumping around between various local high schools. He began his creative journey at 17 after he wrote and sold a movie script and moved to Los Angeles.

Brown’s art is complex. His work straddles the line between the surreal and the familiar. Previous projects have included eerie projections of fire and animals onto old, dilapidated, sinister-looking barns and minimalist renderings of one of his trademark calling cards: a painting of a small brown boat that boasts a simple white flag on a sea of varying striations of blue hues. One such piece even made it onto the wall of the Solomon Dubnick Gallery where it hung next to works by Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos.

As he juggles multiple projects while looking for new mediums such as a robot lab where he tinkers on animatronics, Brown seems to be in constant motion. It makes for a frenetic pace. Still, Brown’s creative spirit isn’t waning. Instead, the photographer-projectionist-painter says managing several undertakings is just a part of the creative process.

“I like throw myself into the situation and I’m looking around at everything and I’m going, ’Oh, fuck this is going to be so shitty,’” Brown says by way of explanation. “But I keep working at it and it gets a little bit better and then a little bit better, and then it turns from me being superdepressed about it, saying, ’This is totally impossible,’ into ’Oh, this is cool.’”

Making a name as an artist is one thing, but making a living is an entirely different beast. Brown knows success doesn’t happen overnight but, he says, the work is pouring in. Upcoming projects include creating a performance venue in the basement of the Warehouse Artist Lofts building, as well as making more videos for Crosses and a string of other bands.

For many, working at such a maddening pace would be overwhelming, but the creative multitasker says he manages with support from the likes of Lampkin and TBD art curator Seumas Coutts.

For Coutts, it’s Brown’s artistic voice and impact that compel him to help the artist reach a bigger audience

“Scale, mass, energy, are all of the basic things an artist has to [convey] in some way,” he says, adding that a successful piece is one that resonates “if you walk away … and it leaves an aftershock in you, psychically, mentally, spiritually, [and] if it embodies something even in the physical body.”

Brown’s art, Coutts says, “does all that.”

Coutts adds it was Brown’s imagination and ability that not only secured his place as a part of the creative pool of artists contributing to the festival, but landed him the title of TBD artist-in-residence.

“Every artist has a skill set. They bring their toolbox or paint palette or whatever it is that they have and you have to know that trajectory,” Coutts says of TBD’s selection process. “It was very clear to me that he was someone that we could support.”

Brown didn’t grow up in an artistic household, nor did he have any formal training. Rather, the Sacramento native cites his grandmother, an art teacher at St. Francis High School who died when he was 10, as the inspiration and motivation that was otherwise lacking.

“I didn’t take art seriously, because I didn’t grow up like that. My parents … just didn’t get it,” he says. “They’re really nice people but they never thought it could be a career, and most of the people in Sacramento feel that same way, like, ’Oh like that’s a cool hobby, but what are you going to do in your real life?’”

Certainly, Brown has been able to cultivate his artistic vision into making a “real” life for himself in the art world: He’s also collaborated with the Sizzling Sirens burlesque troupe, served as the artistic director for the 2012 Sacramento Electronic Music Festival and animated a spot for Santa Cruz Skateboards that premiered on ESPN during the 2012 Street League Skateboarding series.

Now, as Brown strategizes his next move, he says that while the art scene here is very conventional, there are hints that the mainstream and tradition will soon give way to what he sees as the next wave. Something he foresees as pieces comprising “all of this amazing semidisturbed stuff.”

The prediction fits with his overall creative philosophy.

“I’ve made it here in a lot of ways, [but] I’ve had a lot of help,” he says. “But you’ve got to get rid of the conventional way of doing it.”