The Madison artist draws on his love of street art to create a new Willy Street landmark.
Over one weekend in October, people driving east down Willy Street saw a burst of black, white, and pleasantly creamy green taking shape on the exterior wall of Banzo Shük. The mural, by Madison-based artist Stefan Matioc, has no title and depicts a jumble of strangely intertwined faces. On the right side, a hand reaches up from the mass to pull on a string attached to a disembodied eyeball, as if turning a light on, and also taking advantage of the wall’s odd configuration—it’s shaped like the side of an ascending staircase.
Staff at the restaurant asked Matioc to paint the mural after seeing his work around town, including a piece at downtown pizza joint Lucille and work he displayed at a show for Madison electro-soul artist Mr. Jackson. The Banzo mural is his first big exterior piece, though he also has frequently experimented with wall-scale works at his and various friends’ apartments. Matioc usually uses graffiti pens that leave a bit of a paint dribble beneath the lines, but this time he used big paintbrushes, and deliberately used just three colors, to create crisp, bold lines. He made the faces big, he says, because “I knew that people were going to be driving by.” He didn’t do a lot of deliberate planning, but used some free-flowing drawings in his sketchbooks as a starting point.
“It’s one line, in a continuous motion,” Matioc says. “I think I spent a couple hours throughout a couple weeks doodling in that general shape and just figuring out, ‘OK, what if I want to do tons of faces and have some characters, or include more arms and legs?’ I landed on having huge faces.”
The restaurant initially wanted to paint its logo on the wall, but couldn’t because of a zoning-code technicality. Matioc was asked to use the shade of green in the restaurant’s logo, but it works well, softening the starkness of the black lines and white eyeballs.
It’s hard to miss the influence of cubism in the mural, but Matioc’s main inspiration is street art-much of his work has taken the form of hats, t-shirts, wheat-pasted stickers. Matioc, who was born in San Francisco and moved to Madison while in elementary school, began experimenting with graffiti in high school.
“There were good spray paint graffiti kids at West High that did not accept me, because I was not good,” he says. “I was a suburban kid that would spray paint Fitchburg with shitty graffiti.”
When we met up to discuss the mural earlier this month, Matioc especially pointed to Keith Haring, recalling a video that shows the artist working with kids in Chicago on a mural. “He does all the outlines and then he asks them to go in and not hit his lines, but do designs within them, all different colors and stuff,” Matioc says.
He likes the fact that people will see his mural while heading east down Willy Street, and will see the graffiti wall at Mother Fool’s when they’re going the other way. “I grew up on the west side as a kid and whenever I came to the east side, that was the thing that stood out to me, Mother Fool’s and the graffiti wall,” he says.
Although the Banzo Shük mural will be staying up long-term, Matioc really wants to see Madison embrace the inherent transience of street art, meaning more things should get painted or wheat-pasted over after a while. His upcoming projects will push a bit in that direction. He’d like to put his work into more shirts, zines, skateboards, and shoes, and he’s got a commission to decorate the crosswalk flag holders on Monroe Street.
“I think Madison really sucks for that in so many ways, like the lack of street art and the amount that people are taking down shit on electrical boxes and not letting things ride out,” he says. “On the east side, certain boxes are the only place where people are allowed to have so many stickers and stuff…I want there to be more encouragement to do weird stuff and decorate, because I feel like everyone here is down, especially on the east side. That Otis Redding mural got a lot of positive feedback.” But instead of letting such works be static, he says, “Let’s keep doing it.”