PORTLAND – The last time Matt Moore had an exhibition in town, he dubbed it his “Farewell Portland” show.
Now it’s time to say hello.
Moore, a 30-year-old graphic designer and painter, opens a new exhibition in early May at the Fore River Gallery on Congress Street.
A 2006 graduate of the Maine College of Art, Moore intended to leave town for good not long after he finished his schooling. In fact, he did leave — for London, New York, Paris, Sao Paolo.
But Portland lured him back.
“I just like Maine, dude,” he said over a cup of coffee at Arabica. “I felt like I was still in my college town after graduating. But after traveling quite a bit — I’ve been a lot of places — I realize that Portland is my favorite city. This is where I want to be.”
We’re better for it.
Moore is a rising star in the design world. After working for other people, including briefly for the VIA Group ad agency in Portland, he now works for himself. He’s the founder of MWM Graphics, a design and illustration studio in Portland’s West End.
He works in many disciplines, but is best known for his lively geometric “vectorfunk” spray-painted designs that play tricks on the viewer’s eyes, drawing them into a maze of shapes and a blizzard of bright and flashy colors.
He’s a quiet artist, modest and unassuming. He’s world-famous, although largely unknown in his adopted hometown. Over the years, he’s taken on high-profile work for major companies, corporations and brands. His client list includes the mainstream and the hip, from Walmart and Scion Motors to Mountain Dew, Nike and Burton snowboards.
Lately, the project he’s most proud of involved adorning Ray-Ban sunglasses with his vectorfunk motif. As part of his collaboration with Ray-Ban, Moore traveled to New York to paint a mural on the side of a Sunglass Hut store in Manhattan, in the shadow of the Empire State Building. The retailer also reproduced his design for in-store displays and exterior signs at other locations across New York.
Moore reveled in the thrill of it all.
“More people saw my art each hour than in all of my gallery exhibitions combined,” he wrote on his blog. “Tens of thousands of curious tourists and New Yorkers. Lots of fun. It’s always great to hear people’s impression of my work, and explain my process. This was my most fun ‘live painting event’ yet. They even had a bodyguard and fancy velvet rope for me. Haha.”
Moore also has a clothing line, Glyph Cue. He uses that brand as an outlet to design T-shirts for street-level fashion.
His next project is functional design. He wants to incorporate his geometric ideas into a line of furniture. Moore’s no furniture maker, but he can handle power tools.
“I know how to not cut my fingers off,” he says.
What he’s got in mind is a collaboration with a buddy who does make furniture. Moore would handle the design and the art, and his friend would handle the manufacturing.
He is scared of nothing.
“My mantra is, ‘Range is conducive to growth.’ I never burn out on one thing. I am always cross-pollinating ideas from one medium to another,” he says.
Elizabeth Marks, co-director of Fore River Gallery, attributes Moore’s success to his work ethic. She went to school with him at MECA, and knew him then as a guy who barely paused long enough to sleep. That go-go attitude is evident yet today.
“He works all the time. He can just go,” she said. “You look at any artist who’s become big, and the trait they have in common is their willingness to work.
“We’re really pleased that he’s exhibiting here. He’s not an emerging artist anymore. He’s emerged. He has shown all over the world.”
Because he works for himself, Moore has the freedom to think on his own and take risks without obligating others.
“Inspiration and drive come in waves. If I am not feeling it, I can go shoot baskets for two hours or go for a bike ride and then come back and work,” he says.
For his upcoming exhibition at Fore River Gallery, Moore will show what he calls “an eccentric mix of leftovers,” although he quickly adds that the word “leftovers” may connote the wrong image.
The work at Fore River will include pieces he completed during extended residencies in Barcelona, Paris, Sao Paolo and London, as well as work from various periods of his young career, each completed with different tools and supplies.
There will be spray-painted paintings, cutouts that he calls “Matthew Scissorshands,” watercolors and other works. He also plans a vectorfunk design on the gallery’s front window.
Moore grew up in suburban Boston, and fell in love with Maine as a youngster. His folks vacationed in Maine regularly, in Wells. He lived the nomadic life of an art student for many years, attending Savannah College of Art in Georgia and Rhode Island School of Design in Providence before enrolling at MECA.
He’s happy to be back in Maine, and glad he has finally given in to the realization that Portland is the kind of place where he can put down roots.
“For my whole life, I’ve had this really good feeling about Maine,” he says.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: