Words by Sheila Lam
Photographs by Justin Chung

Matt McCormick, Artist

Los Angeles, CA

Exploring the polarity of American culture, Matt McCormick’s art balances glamour and grit, fusing nostalgia for the past with the stark realities of the present. Based between studios in New York and Los Angeles, the multi-disciplinary artist illustrates the dichotomies of the American experience in his paintings, drawings, and mixed media works. Matt embraces legends of the Wild West, culling inspiration from renegades and outsiders. His art encapsulates the nation’s rebellious and adventurous spirit, assimilating seemingly disparate influences from pop culture, art history, and upbringing into a dynamic aesthetic vision. His work contemplates the juxtaposition between the inherited landscape of the frontier and the cultural legacies that endure today.

For the San Francisco-born artist, studying contemporary culture and constant learning are critical to his artistic practice. At 36, Matt’s works have been shown in solo and group exhibitions across three continents, including major art centers like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, London, and Hong Kong. Known for exuberant paintings, drawings, and sculptures, he describes New York as fueling his creativity in exciting new ways.

A major shift has been able to spend more time visiting museums and galleries, conversing with other artists, and always considering deeply about art history. He explains visiting an Edward Hopper exhibition in New York compared to Los Angeles, saying, “I’ll jump on a city bike, go over, see a show, be back within an hour. In LA, that would have taken a whole day. I would have chosen to not see it because I wouldn’t have the time.” Immersed in his studio, he loses opportunities to contextualize and reflect on his work. “It started making me feel like you’re not participating in this thing that consumes your life in the way that you should,” he admits.

This engagement with art at large connects deeply to Matt’s approach. “It’s having a conversation with yourself and having a conversation with people that are viewing your work,” he explains. “You’re constantly trying to continue that.” While inspiration from peers is essential, he clarifies, “Even if it’s an artist that looks completely different than me, there’s kind of a dialogue that occurs in that moment.”

Beyond creating his original artworks, Matt extends his creative vision into the realms of film and product design through recent collaborations. Joining forces with One of These Days and outerwear brand Woolrich, Matt served as creative director for two experiential videos, Long Way Home and Lost Weekend. Filmed in the rugged splendor of Wyoming, the two short films stars model Austin Withers in a contemplative journey through the Western landscape. Continuing his explorations of Americana, Matt partnered with Canada Goose and fashion label ROKH on a capsule collection for Fall 2023. Inspired by his signature chromatic vistas and rodeo drawings, the eight-piece outerwear and accessories range brings Matt’s artistry to wearable silhouettes.

Further demonstrating his flair for infusing art into lifestyle branding, Matt created custom leather cases and motifs for Harry’s limited-edition American West grooming kit. The shaving brand tapped the artist to design the raw leather toiletry bag and vintage-inspired razor handle, drawing on his affinity for the open road. And perhaps most publicly, Matt’s work was used for superstar Puerto Rican rapper and singer Bad Bunny’s latest album cover, which sees the rapper on horseback in an original drawing. Between choreographing experiential films set in the Western frontier, outfitting urban explorers in art-infused gear, and conjuring the romance of journeying through product design, Matt fluidly traverses media while staying true to his creative spirit.

Despite his busy schedule, Matt stays focused on pushing his art forward by carefully balancing various demands. Rather than let business needs overtake his practice, he carves out time for learning, community, and conceptual exploration. Whether engaging with the art industry, collaborating with other artists, or allowing ideas to percolate unhindered, he prioritizes fueling his creativity. He understands that constant stimulation is vital, be it from museum visits, books, or late-night studio sessions.

This ethos allows Matt to juggle commissions, exhibitions, and commercial projects while progressing conceptually. He gains new vantage points by dividing his time between New York and Los Angeles studios. The change of pace in each city prods him creatively in different ways. For Matt, environment plays a pivotal role in imaginative growth. Surroundings shape patterns of thinking, making, and perceiving. By refusing to remain static in one place, physically or intellectually, he spurs himself to explore new terrain. Ultimately, Matt treats creativity itself as a lifelong journey rather than a fixed destination. His perseverance and openness demonstrate that the creative life is one of perpetual evolution.●