Spoke SF is pleased to present Pop Perspective, a dual artist exhibition featuring new work by Matt and Miles Ritchie. For their debut exhibition together, this father and son duo has created a fun and affordable pop culture experience featuring hand cut and painted wooden sculptures and paintings complimenting their two distinct artistic styles.
Ranging from the Avengers to Zelda, Pop Perspective is a comprehensive pop culture survey from the perspective of two different generations. Sharing a mutual love for comics, film, TV, music, video games and everything pop, Matt and Miles Ritchie distill their favorite characters and icons into crisply crafted and dimensional pieces.
Matt Ritchie’s colorful painted wood pieces explore individual characters and their iconic accouterments, concentrating on the immediately recognizable essentials. His slump series is “an exhausted look at exhausted pop,” celebrating the artist’s deep love for pop culture and commenting on the ubiquitous over saturation of each franchise. Where his Dad’s perspective is steeped in decades of fandom, Miles Ritchie is presenting beloved characters with fresh eyes. Simplifying and refining many of the same characters, the younger Ritchie takes a more minimal approach to rendering his “Pop Ply Portraits” using only natural wood and shadow.
Spoke interviewed the father/son duo in anticipation of their show at the gallery, read the whole thing below:
This is the first time Spoke has ever done a father/son collaborative show. Matt you've been part of the Spoke family for a long time and it has been amazing to watch Miles come into his own as an artist. What has it been like for you to watch Miles make work of his own?
Matt: It's weird actually. I know he has been around me making my art his whole life, but I never expected him to become an artist as a result of his environment. He always enjoyed drawing as a kid but I never thought "he's going to be an artist for sure". I just wanted him to enjoy the creative process. It has been the past few years that I started seeing a real change in his focus and work ethic. He really has a strong design sense and he explores a lot of mediums. Mediums that I have never used. It's amazing. It's like this monster grew out of him over night. At this point I'm stunned, impressed and very proud.
Matt, could you tell us a bit about how you first started making work? Has pop culture always been a touchstone and inspiration for your work?
Matt: I started making art at a young age as a result of pop culture. I saw Star Wars as a 7 year old in 1977 and was blown away. When I got home I wanted that story to continue and started to draw my own Star Wars stories. I discovered I loved drawing. Very soon after Star Wars I got my first comic books. I became obsessed with comics (especially Marvel books) and proclaimed that I wanted to grow up to be a comic book artist. My mom was bummed. I've always dipped in and out of pop culture subjects in my art ever since.
Miles, I can imagine your Dad's art practice and interest in pop culture has informed a lot of what you grew up on. Do you have any memorable moments making work with your Dad early in life?
Miles: I have tons of memories of making things alongside my dad. I would try to work as close to his art studio at home as I could, so we could both be drawing together. He was able to bring me to his work a lot as a child, so I would set up shop at his desk and draw the day away. He helped me make the best looking projects in all of my elementary school! He was very involved in my early creativity.
Could you walk us through your process? You're both working with wood in a sculptural capacity, how do you feel your work is similar/different?
Matt: I use wood in a variety of ways in my work depending on the project. For this show I'm engaging in one of my favorite processes. This show content will be in my "collection" motif. This is where I combine individual cut and prepared pieces into a cut "frame" that acts to unify the objects. I do a lot of techniques that range from simple cut out pieces to dioramas to full sculptures. It is all very labor intensive. Despite all of the various techniques I've used over the years, Miles has developed a style that is very different than my work.
Miles: The process for my wooden portraits is pretty straightforward. I’ll look at reference of the subject and sketch out early drafts on my iPad Pro, always reworking the drawing to best break the face down into layers. When I have a portrait I’m happy with, I’ll print it out, transfer the individual pieces onto wood, cut them out by hand with our scroll saw, and very thoroughly sand the pieces as smooth as possible before adhering them together. My dad creates incredibly bold and stylized pieces, with an amazing color palette and precision painting. I leave the wood in my pieces unpainted, using only the layers and shadows they create to form the image of my pieces.
What has drawn you both into making sculptural work vs. more traditional drawing/ painting/2D work?
Matt: My foundation is the traditional work. I majored in printmaking in college. I started really working with wood about 20 years ago. I just felt a need to take my subjects out of the confines of a canvas or sheet of paper. I'm not sure it was meant to last this long but now it is my favorite way of working. That being said, I still do traditional work occasionally.
Miles: I always admired that most of my dad’s work were objects that you could interact with. Even though the paintings are 2 dimensional, the pieces are always cut out on wood, making the work into tangible shapes that you can handle, rather than being limited to a plain square canvas. With that in mind, I grew up wanting to make work that I could hold in my hands, examine from different angles, and create depth with.
Pop Perspectives is a pop culture survey from your eyes and you overlap a lot in what characters/stories you're incorporating. Are there any major areas where you differ? Marvel vs. DC, etc?
Miles: As far as I can tell, there’s no specific piece of pop culture that we have majorly differing opinions on. I think where we differ is more about the different exposure we’ve had to the things that we both like. My dad grew up at the time that a lot of the things I now enjoy were being created, while I grew up in a time where those things have already been around for decades. He’s seen them go through countless changes and reinterpretations over time, while they’re still relatively new and fresh to me.
Matt: (laughter) You actually listen to me! Miles answer is spot on.
As a father/son exhibition, what have you guys learned about each other collaborating like this? How does this collaboration differ from ones you've done with other artists? What was it like working together?
Miles: I’ve learned a lot of little things here and there while working on this show, but it has mostly served as a reminder to just how hard working and dedicated my dad is to his work. He truly has the best work ethic there is. It’s really a one-of-a-kind feeling being able to work on this show together. I’m lucky to have been able to exhibit my work alongside a lot of my friends and other really talented artists in previous shows, but working on something this personal with my family is a whole new experience. There’s always artwork being produced in our house for separate projects, but working on this one together has made the process a lot more fun.
Matt: I love collaborating with other artists. Especially when it is just one other artist. You learn so much about each other's creative process and both artists are producing significant amount of content under one banner. It is very different than group shows or a solo show. To me it is very special. My last 2 person show was with one of my best friends, Alex Pardee. It was one of the best experiences in my art life. Working like this with my own son is really a dream come true. I love working with Miles. We also have the added bonus of living under the same roof. We have a lot of excitement and encouragement every day leading up to the show. I'm also truly blown away by Miles' work for this show. He's going to steal the whole show!
Any words of wisdom for each other?}
Matt: (laughter) I'm an unsolicited vessel of wisdom to this young man. I learn a lot from Miles, but that is different from wisdom, which is acquired through experience. He is gaining his own wisdom as he matures. We are great friends, always will be, but at the end of the day I will always be dad.
Miles: I get most of my wisdom from my parents, I don’t think there’s much I can say to my dad that he doesn’t already know. They’re amazing people who’ve provided me with such an amazing life, so I guess my only words of wisdom would be to keep doing what they’re doing.
Miles, you are still really early in your career as an artist and already incredibly talented. What are your hopes for your future art career?
Miles: It has always been exciting seeing my dad get to explore so many different opportunities with his work. He gets to work with wonderful galleries, he gets to work with his best friends, and he gets to show his work all over the world. I hope I can do all those great things with my work in the future. I’ve already been able to achieve a lot of great art goals that I’m really grateful for. I just want to keep working at my craft and see how far I can get.
Matt, where did the "Slump" series come from? Do you think you'll keep going with it or do you feel like it has a distinct end?
Matt: The Slump series can be defined as "an exhausted look at exhausted pop". My goal was to give the viewer my personal perspective of pop culture. These are the characters that I love the most... if I don't look too closely at them. They are designed to have a monotonous, redundant, posture that links all of these diverse themes together. The figures are deconstructed to only their most defining characteristics. I feel that this is the way I see pop culture at this stage in my life. When I leave an Avengers movie, within 15 minutes I couldn't really separate the overall plot or motive of the characters from the characters in a Justice League, Star Wars, or Harry Potter movie. My only walk away is with individual characteristics and nostalgia. I think a lot of older consumers of pop culture can relate to this perspective. In contrast to my view is Miles' pieces. They are a sharp, detailed, fresh faced look at pop culture. My work reflects a passion I have for these pop culture franchises in the volume and effort I put into my work, but also shows the weariness and over-saturation in the presentation of these pieces. "Pop Perspective” should be an interesting and fun exploration of pop culture from two generations of fanboys.
In addition to making art together, your family is also quiet the JB Skating team. How long have you guys been doing that together? Any other amazing family talents/traditions? Also, can we come with you next time you go skating?
Miles: We do love our skating. I think it’s been about 7 or 8 years now that we’ve been skating together. As far and other talents go... dad does a spot on Gollum/Smeagol impression, mom is a pun master, and I make some pretty good lemonade. You guys are always invited to go skating!
Anything else you'd like to add about the show?
Matt: We would love to see everyone at the opening of this special show. If you come out, please say hi!