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May 5, 2004

{     Interview : Matt Clark     }    

We recently had a chance to chat with Matt Clark, aka Manbaby, of Crane Magazine and Robot the Robot fame about a bunch of stupid stuff that really shouldn't be that interesting, but Matt managed to change that entirely. You see, Matt is one of those guys that makes you wish you could make movies out of people's thought processes, and if you could then Matt's would totally make Fantasia or 200 Motels seem about as vivid and exciting as a documentary on white socks. Matt is a fantastically talented guy, and it's a good thing because the dude cranks out work like mad. After finally conquering several issues of Crane and all the Robot the Robot strips, I ended up spending forever wandering around his oh-so-dense portfolio, never tiring of his work, and you should to, after you read what the guy has to say...

Shane: Let's get this out of the way: What's up with the name Manbaby?
Matt: 'Manbaby' is all about my desire to keep my life as simple as possible. Kids tend to have these really unbiased and insightful things to say about the world because they don't have to deal with all the absurd complications that adults swim around in. I want to be a grown man that keeps things real just like a baby does.

Where ya from and where ya goin'?
I grew up in New York, and I live in Portland now. My girlfriend and I are starting to shop around for houses, so I don't think we're going anywhere anytime soon.

So, is Portland really as cool as everybody says it is? All I think of anymore when people say Portland is Suicide Girls. Is that wrong?
Portland is pretty cool. Umm, as far as the Suicide Girls thing goes, I wouldn't say it was wrong. You're just a dirty man.

So Robot the Robot looks to have been on ice for a bit. Any plans to bring his metal ass back?
I just put up a new Robot the Robot site that includes the entire "Robot Goes to Heaven" issue. And I'm working on something right now that's way better than all the other Robot adventures put together. I can't go into specifics, but let me just say that its codename is "Project: Awesome." Consider yourself teased.

If you could choose, would you rather be a successful fine artist with packed gallery shows, or would you rather be successful drawing in the comic biz?
I'm going to go with "successful fine artist." The galleries I've shown at have been giving me free food. And that really means something to me. I've also been getting really into this idea of filling up a space - it's feels like a bigger accomplishment than finishing a book. Comics are cool, they're just a lot harder than my version of 'fine art' - it takes a lot more drawing to get an idea across.

You crank out oodles and oddles of work, your site is full-on loaded, and you're involved in your local art and music scenes. Do you ever get time to watch Friends?
It's been a while since I've watched Friends. It's actually been a while since I've hung out with my real-life friends. I get obsessed with things, which I guess is obvious. I just want to be successful, and I don't know exactly what that entails, so I end up working all the time. When I'm not working, I get anxious. It's bad, I know.

Do you really, really, really, really not like George W Bush, or do you just think that he's dumb and mean? Are you politically active, especially in this oh-so-important election year?
I think the Bush is not good. I just can't get over the fact that he wasn't actually "elected." I guess I'm naive. Or my attention span is too long. I put up a lot of stickers and flyers in the weeks before and after the start of our invasion, but I haven't done very much since then. It seems like the whole city has the same views that I do with regards to the current administration. "Bush is bad" just seems like common sense to everyone, so when I'm trying to do something subversive, like putting up posters, I'm just preaching to the choir.

What kind of 9-5 are you currently holding down, or are you a full-on full-time artist?
I don't have a nine-to-five job, and that pretty much frees me up to work on the arty stuff from sunrise to midnight.

If you could have anyone sit for you so that you could sketch a portrait of them, who would it be and why?
That's a good question. I don't know. I've heard Vincent Gallo is a pleasure to be around.

Tell all the kids about this exquisite webzine-type-thing you've been running for a while called Crane Magazine, and why it kills all takers. Where do you want to go with Crane in the future?
Hi Kids. I publish this online art magazine called 'Crane' every two months. The people who have submitted work to Crane are all really talented, and I do my best to make the magazine look legit. And that's a recipe for killing all takers.
Ultimately, I'd like to put out a printed version of Crane - maybe like a 'greatest hits' collection of the strongest work published in the online version. Maybe. I don't know.

You've mentioned that you used to hang with Craig Metzger of EngineSystem. How did kicking around with that dude affect you and your style?
When I was drawing comics, my whole outlook on drawing was very restrictive. I was trying to tell stories, and that meant that every drawing had a specific objective. Craig's work opened me up to this idea of just creating things for their own sake, not getting caught up in trying to convey an explicit message. I don't think Craig affected my drawing 'style' very much, but he did get me to think more about composition and color choices.

Do you collaborate with others these days on things besides Crane?
I have a couple of people that I want to collaborate with, we just need to find the time.

What about making music? Is that something that you do a lot of?
Not too much lately. I recorded a birthday album for my girlfriend last summer - it sounds like Kraftwerk making Nintendo music. The two of us perform sloppy heavy metal karaoke at parties sometimes. Our band name is "Kim and Matt's Karaoke Clusterfuck." I'd totally do that as my job if I could.

What else are you into? Music, art, magazines, and so on.
Musically, I'm into all the cool bands that the cool people like. But I'm not cool.
As far as art goes, I really like Anthony Yankovic's work. And I've been a big fan of David Foldvari for a while. And lots of people have picked up on the fact that Raymond Pettibon is a big influence.
I don't read too many magazines. Every once in a while, I'll flip through Tokion or Beautiful/Decay. I got a pretty awesome magazine in an airport recently - "Slam Classic." It's got a lot of great photos from the 87-88 NBA season, which is like the one year that I was really into basketball. Good times.

Now for my new favorite part of the interview: describe your work in the most contrived, long-winded, and snotty way possible. Please.
Ahhh... Well, I try to make artworks that people (mostly young people) can relate to, and the method is to examine this pervasive culture of irony. There's this whole push to declare irony dead, but why did it get so big in the first place? I think the whole fascination with irony comes from the modern deconstructive tradition. Ironic fashion is deconstructing the idea of what 'fashion' is. Ironic bands are deconstructing the really short lifespan of popular sentiment. What I'm trying to do is to deconstruct the tradition of deconstruction. How's that for contrived! Taking something apart to see how it works is science, but taking apart your own compulsion to take things apart is poetry.

And lastly, ask yourself one last question, and then answer it best you can!
Did I realy know what I was talking about in that last response?

    » Check out, and don't forget to buy some prints!
    » Check out a few issues of the mighty-fine Crane Magazine
    » And last but not least, read up on Robot the Robot

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