>> Most artists use paper, cloth, even walls as their canvas. But Jordan Mattos, he uses t-shirts. A native New Yorker, Jordan (left) started drawing on t-shirts with permanent marker a few years back. "I got the idea after seeing the Fassbinder film series at the Film Forum in 2003," Jordan, a NYU film school graduate, said. "It was a turning point in my life. I became obsessed with him and based my first shirt on Fear Eats the Soul."
Since that first shirt, Jordan has been asked to do shirts on anything from the obscure: "Somebody asked me to do a t-shirt of Asha Bosle and I didn't know who she was. So I researched her and found that she's this famous Indian singer," to shirts on films that he knows well: "I did a shirt for my friend Asher. He requested a 'Sorrow and the Pity' shirt, which is a four hour documentary on France's collaboration with Nazi Germany. Basically, I did Hitler and the armed forces below him -- lots of swastikas. Asher's Jewish but loves it anyway, though he can very rarely wear it out of course. Same thing with Chloe Sevigny -- I did a Fassbinder shirt for her, but the whole Nazi regime thing really makes wearing something out like that risky." When asked about how people might react to the swastikas and Nazi imagery he puts on his film-inspired shirts, Jordan calmly replies, "Am I worried about the images? There's an old saying...'If you want to send a message, go to Western Union!' The films are more complicated than a single image can supply. What I'm doing is implying the message -- giving a hint, a symbolic representation. But it's up to you to take that journey into the depth of the film, if your curiosity has been piqued!"
All of Jordan's shirts are covered with a collage of images -- evidence of how much time and effort he puts into each piece. "Each of my shirts are hand-drawn -- I don't silkscreen. Basically, what I'm selling are my illustrations, because I don't construct the shirt, I just use it as a canvas," Jordan explains. "Each is original. I package them in a clear box so the shirt can be hung on a wall like artwork, or it can be worn." He takes orders through his website -- his custom order t-shirts run about $150. If you're concerned about the staying power of permanent marker on t-shirts, Jordan is ready with a solution: "Yes, it's true -- the permanent marker doesn't last very long before it begins to fade, especially if it's washed normally. These are dry-clean only. A lot of people really love the faded look as well, so they've been purposely washing them for that effect." Still not convinced? Lucky for you, Jordan did a Joan of Arc design (above, right) -- "I'm a big Joan of Arc obsessee" -- that the New York Art Collective silkscreened onto shirts, which sell for $45.
So what does Jordan have planned next? "I'm going to continue doing commission pieces, but what I'm working on now is a small collection of about 10-15 pieces. They're based on my favorite filmmakers, artists, books, philosophers." In parting, he was gracious enough to give a hint at sources of inspiration for the pieces we have to look forward to:
The Incredible String Band
Amon Duul II
Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae
Hakim Bey's T.A.Z. (Temporary Autonomous Zone)
Fassbinder's 'Niklashausen Journey'
Derek Jarman's 'Caravaggio'
Michael Haneke's 'The Seventh Continent'
Just one more thing -- you lucky dogs in New York can check out Jordan's creations in person -- he has shirts available at Opening Ceremony and the New Museum of Contemporary Art Bookstore, so be sure to stop by.