One hundred and thirty-six rats have infested an art gallery in Oakland, but there’s no need to call the Orkin® Man. This is the handiwork of local artist Matt Ritchie, aka rat136. You may recall Ritchie’s epic Retrospectacular exhibition and interview from February. For that show, he created a series of 101 different 2-inch rat canvases in hand-cut wooden frames. In the less than two months since Retrospectacular closed, Ritchie made 35 more rats—enough to cover a wall at Oakland’s ZEROFRIENDS and match his total to his title: Rat136.
In these times of computer-generated, 3D-printed, CNC, laser-cut, digital canvases, Ritchie’s rats stand out as hand-painted, hand-drawn, hand-inked, wood-burned, wood-cut and/or rubber-stamped. Additionally, all 136 of the hand-crafted rat canvases live inside hand-cut and hand-painted wooden rat frames. Some people refer to this as “process.” I’m fond of the term “OCD art.” Ritchie simply points to Matt Fact #6: “rat136 never sleeps.”
The 136 rats span styles (modern art, 30s cartoons), mediums (ballpoint pen, linocut) and pop culture (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Regular Show), but they form a cohesive brand. Falling somewhere between sweet Remy and scary Charles, Matt Ritchie’s rats have as much staying power as Pixar’s blockbuster or Chuck E Cheese’s mascot.
Witness the corporate trappings of cute!
Doubleparlour and Matt Ritchie
From dark spots to day jobs and health issues to hobbies, the tiny paintings are windows into the artist’s life. Each rat has a story—sometimes it’s in your face, and other times it’s not spelled out for us. I think my favorites are the ones in which Ritchie has encoded an extra layer of meaning. A subcultural shout-out, if you will. Skateboarders, printmakers and Trekkies, for instance, will get a bonus round with particular rats.
Chloe Rice and Alex Pardee
This was a great opening, and Matt’s rats will be on view at ZEROFRIENDS through the next First Friday Oakland Art Murmur. Ritchie’s rats are now available to purchase online for rat-diculous prices ($80-$250) here. Support a local artist and a great collective of folks and score rat-dical art at the same time! Click through for more photos from Saturday’s opening.