Deconstructing Pop Art: An Interview with Matt Gondek

Published Dec 4, 2023

LA-based pop artist Matt Gondek is a creative rebel with a punk rock attitude.

Cover image: Gondek Studio

Matt Gondek is best known for his deconstructed interpretations of popular culture icons, always defying convention and challenging the status quo with a raw energy and unapologetic audacity. He has gathered a massive fan base with his unique blend of pop art, anarchy and explosive color palettes.

In this exclusive interview, we’ll be diving into Matt’s world, exploring his rebellious spirit, his creative influences, and the thought process behind his daringly vibrant pieces. So grab your favorite drink, and let’s get started.

Matt and his Deconstructed Homer painting. Photo: Maxwell Druxman

IG: How did you first become interested in art, and what inspired you to pursue a career as a pop artist in particular?

Matt: As a kid, my first loves were comic books, and I genuinely believed that’s what I would pursue when I got older. In my twenties, my passion for comics took a backseat to my admiration for street art and graffiti, especially those artists who were turning it into a career. I read Juxtapoz and followed various art websites, which eventually led me to visit the PAFA museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2013 to see a KAWS exhibit. Although I had seen artwork in galleries before, it was at that point that I realized the the subject matter I already loved drawing and painting could find a place in a higher art setting. After that show, I began to focus more on my fine art, almost abandoning any freelance drawing work I was doing.

Opulence, 2022. Photo: Gondek Studio

IG: In the past you’ve mentioned Lichtenstein as one of your favorite artists. Can you talk about some of the other artistic influences that have played a role in shaping your approach and aesthetic?

Matt: I’m from Pittsburgh, the birthplace of Andy Warhol. His art, methodology of running an art practice, and knack for marketing himself cast a huge shadow over me growing up. I’ve always been drawn to artists who treat their entire practice like a business – expanding into various mediums and commercial projects. People like Jeff Koons, Murakami, etc.

IG: Out of all the pop culture icons you have dissected and deconstructed, including Mickey Mouse, Bart Simpson and Darth Vader, is there a particular character you enjoyed working with the most?

Matt: I’ve always loved Donald Duck. I admire his colors and the shape of the character. I get a kick out of how angry he always is, lashing out at a world that doesn’t understand him.

My Voice is Color, 2021. Photo: Gondek Studio
Left: Fail, 2020 / Right: Anger Issues, 2020.

IG: What do you aim to convey through your reinterpretation of these characters?

Matt: When you consider classical artwork in museums, a significant portion of it revolves around themes of royalty and religion. During the times those works were created, monarchy and the church were daily fixtures in popular culture. However, fast forward to 2023, and these influences have waned. Instead, we find icons like Mickey Mouse and Bart Simpson taking their place. In a way, these characters can be seen as our modern-day gods. Given my upbringing with a punk mindset focused on anti-conformity, my work aims to deconstruct those in power, which now includes these characters.

I call my style “Deconstructive Pop Art”.

Circle of Death (Goku), 2021. Photo: Gondek Studio

IG: You have also explored some awesome mashups in the past, like the TMNT vs DBZ paintings, the Photo Strip Series and the epic Saturday artwork. Can we expect more of those crossovers in the future?

Matt: I’m working on a series of 104 small paintings right now that all flow into one another and make up one large image. It’s the most extensive ‘crossover’ type of work I’ve ever completed! It’ll be finished in early 2024.

Saturday, 2021. Photo: Gondek Studio
The Past is Told By Those Who Win (Mars vs Earth), 2021. Photo: Gondek Studio

IG: Your ability to effortlessly explore diverse artistic mediums while staying true to your distinctive style is truly impressive. Whether it’s through eye-catching paintings, larger-than-life murals, detailed sculptures, or even reinterpreted dollar bills, your unmistakable touch is evident in each creation. How do you adapt your creative process when shifting between these different mediums and techniques?

Matt: Oh, thank you – but I don’t really know. I’ve been fortunate enough to allow myself to laser-focus on the artwork my entire adult life – so maybe that has something to do with it? No distractions?

Deconstructed Mouse Toy. Photo: Gondek Studio
Deconstructed Dollar, 2018. Photo: Gondek Studio
Control Exhibition at Avenue des Arts, LA. Photo: Birdman

IG: Is there a specific medium you haven’t explored yet and would like to tackle in the future?

Matt: I always wanted to make a video game or computer game, something small with tons of illegal use of intellectual property, which I’d probably get sued over. Imagine the character running through famous cartoon worlds and smashing apart those worlds’ characters. It would be excellent.

IG: Yes, that would be epic!

Let’s talk about the role of color in your artwork. It is such a crucial component in your pieces that you have decided to craft your own custom hues. How long did that process take you?

Matt: It’s ongoing! When I first started painting, I had no idea how to use paint or mix my own colors. After years and years of painting, they just sort of happened. Unhappy with store-bought paints, I began experimenting and making my own. Now I have a whole fleet of custom colors, the most famous being my ‘Pink Cocaine,’ which is a creamy hot pink color. I use that one a lot.

Photo: Jonathan Jovel
Control Exhibition at Avenue des Arts, LA. Photo: Birdman

IG: Do you consider this custom assortment of colors complete, or are there any future plans for further expansion of your unique palette?

Matt: We’re always adding more colors, but I do have the basics covered. Some of the other popular ones are my Maliblu (a cool teal-ish blue that’s a play on ‘blue’ and Malibu, California), 1,000 Wott Neon Yellow (named after a British ex-assistant of mine who would always yell ‘WOTT!?’ because she couldn’t understand me), and our Gray, which is called Albondigas (Spanish for ‘meatball’ – but sounds like it has the word ‘bone’ in it).

Left: Some of Matt’s signature colors. Photo: Jonathan Jovel / Right: Photo by Maxwell Druxman

IG: Let’s shift our focus to technology and its impact on creative practices. The art world has seen significant changes in recent years, with the rise of digital art, AI and NFTs. As someone who has previously developed artworks that were paired with an NFT component, how do you view the intersection of traditional and digital art?

Matt: It’s great. The whole reason I started painting was that my digital artwork wasn’t being taken seriously. Did I mention I was a digital-only artist for the first six-ish years of my career? It was a nightmare. The only way I could sell work was by slapping a band name on top and putting it on T-Shirts. Awful.

I’m so glad digital artwork is now finding collectors and entering the same conversations as physical art.

Matt Gondek’s Fight Club project, featuring 300 Unique hand-made spiked baseball bats, was paired with an NFT component through MakersPlace.com.

IG: What are your thoughts on AI-generated art? Are you firmly against it, or are you intrigued by the technology and open to exploring its possibilities?

Matt: Completely for it. AI, in any form, is just another tool that artists can use. Yes, of course, there will be shady companies using it to save a buck (and it typically looks subpar), but I believe a competent artist can use these new tools to enhance their toolkit and, in turn, find more satisfied collectors and clients.

Top: Contempt of Goku / Bottom: Contempt of Porky, 2019

IG: Can you think of anyone in your circle, or any other artists you admire whose work could benefit from more recognition and exposure?

Matt: No, they’re all awful. Just kidding. I have so many terrific artists right here in Los Angeles with me. Here’s a short list of a few very talented friends. Check out their work.

IG: Lastly, what’s on the cards for you in the coming months? Are there any exciting projects or exhibitions on the horizon that we should look forward to?

Matt: As I mentioned, I’m hard at work on a series of 104 small paintings that all complete one big image. There are a few other things in the pipeline, but I’m unable to talk about them yet, like the new collaboration I have next year with Superplastic, for example, or the bronze sculpture I’m currently working on. Can’t talk about them. Sorry.

To learn more about Matt and his awesome creations, check out his website, or give him a follow on Instagram to keep up with his latest adventures.

Matt Gondek in his studio. Photo: Jonathan Jovel

IG Team


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