Matt Eaton on art, life and Detroit

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Matt Eaton, director and curator of the Red Bull House of Art and its residency program for emerging artists, has a show of his own paintings at Detroit’s Galerie Camille. “Intersections,” up through Aug. 27, is a two-man show with Jef Bourgeau. The Detroit News sat down with Eaton, 42, at a Midtown coffeeshop to discuss Detroit, his art, and where he’s going next summer.

Matt Eaton says he feels compelled to make art a more meditative ritual than a career.

Are you from Detroit originally?

No. I grew up in Los Angeles and London until I was 20. My mother, who’s British, was with the Royal Shakespeare Co. I’ve lived in New York and Detroit since — here for the past six years.

What’s your show at Galerie Camille?

It’s called “Intersections,” and funny enough, it was kind of last minute. Galerie Camille had some space available, and asked Jef Bourgeau what he thought they should do. He suggested they do a show on me, which was very kind. But I only had a month’s lead time, so I suggested we do a show together.

What do you think of Jef’s work?

I love it. He’s an impressive, weird dude. Very smart. It’s that combination of constant humility punctuated by confidence and intelligence. He made some decisions in the past I respect, not bowing to other people’s visions of what he should be doing.

What’s the premise of “Intersections?”

I looked at the work Jef was going to show, and made color swatches of every color he used. Then I created paintings in counterpoint to his work, and they’re hung next to his. I thought it’d be cool to just take his palette and create a bunch of work with that.

Matt Eaton worked on square canvases, using the exact same color palette Jef Bourgeau used in his larger canvases, left.

Describe your work.

On first glance, it’s geometric, abstract color-field type of stuff. It’s all a collage of my personal experiences. Growing up at the end of the good punk-rock age, there was a lot of hugely influential graphic design at the time. (He laughs.) I genuinely would be content if nobody ever saw my art again. I’m compelled to make it. It’s more a meditative ritual than a career.

How’s Detroit treated you?

I love Detroit. It’s just got its own personality. It’s never going to be L.A. or New York. Detroit is gritty, and pretty much everything that everyone else misses about their city — like New York these days.

And the art community?

If the people were jerks, I’d have been out of here a long time ago. But that’s not the case. People are wonderful here. It’s a big small town.

Any big plans in your future?

Next summer I’m driving to the Arctic Circle. Really.

‘Intersections: Jef Bourgeau & Matt Eaton’

Through Aug. 27

Galerie Camille, 4130 Cass - Suite C, Detroit

Noon-5 p.m., Wed.-Sat.

(313) 974-6737,