Brooklyn-based artist and sculptor Luis Gispert originally made a name for himself with his ‘hip-hop baroque’ pieces – and in 2011, after 10 years experimenting with this style, Luis marked the end of this period of his career with one final project, documenting the weird and wonderful world of faux designer themed car interiors and apparel. Here, he gives LOGO an exclusive interview on the two-year series, touching on imitation culture, fetishising brands and stumbling across a meth lab.

LOGO: What first inspired your sourcing the images of the car interiors?

LUIS: I’m in Miami after following a car club for a couple of weeks, stalking unique car interiors to shoot. One member tells me about his cousin, who has a “dope” Cadillac Escalade – so I meet the guy, and follow him to a row of small, single car garages. Inside – I don’t know how he stuffed it in there, there’s barely room to get in the door – there’s this giant pearl white Escalade, completely decked out and sitting on 24-inch inch white rims. The interior is entirely upholstered with Louis Vuitton Takashi Murakami, accented with green and purple crocodile skin. I’m floored. The owner doesn’t know who Takashi Murakami is. I explain to him, but he doesn’t seem that interested. What he is interested in is Louis – it’s all about the Louis.

LUIS: Most artists have little to no immediate cultural currency outside of a miniscule art world. It’s obvious the car owner is identifying with the brand, but it’s also about the pop color Murakami introduces to the design. I ask him why he didn’t do it in the traditional brown and gold Louis and he says, no, no, that’s so boring, so old-fashioned. It’s about design. Clearly, this car is a big nonessential item – a behemoth Cadillac transformed into a more rarefied luxury item.

LUIS: In the low rider culture, themed cars are a trope. I’ve seen cars themed after products like Lemonheads, Newports, grape soda… There are Skittles cars, Klondike Bar cars. Out of all of these themed cars, the designer name ones seem a bit more off centre from the rest. These luxury brand cars connote something else, beyond the quotidian, beyond football, beyond menthol cigarettes. That’s what really got me excited to start this two-year hunt.

LOGO: What was it about the concept of fake fashion branding in particular that you wanted to explore?

LUIS: I was longing to get out of the studio. Attracted at first to the landscape element, it was an excuse to travel. The same was occurring in the social landscapes, when I sought out the cars and their owners. But as I documented these cars again and again, they became more and more abstract. People, too, became more intangible as I moved closer to them. The closer I got, the less I understood.

LOGO: You must have some pretty memorable stories from your search – is it true that you ended up at a meth lab once?

LUIS: I wander around Death Valley for five days, then move west, driving down unmarked dirt roads. I come across a strip with a handful of bombed-out houses – and it’s going to be a terrific sunset, so I set up my camera. Then, I notice a puff of dust forming – it’s a pickup truck barreling towards me. A leathery, tanned man in his fifties is at the steering wheel. He glares at me and barks, what are you doing here, son? This is private property.

LUIS: I scan the rest of the pick-up and see three younger looking guys. They seem jittery, anxious. It dawns on me: shit, these guys are tweakers – they’re all meth’d out. They probably think I’m here to fuck with their lab. The guy in the passenger seat lifts up a sawed-off shotgun and pushes the barrel against the roof of the cab. One guy in the back seat is playing with what looks like a 9mm pistol. The driver seems like the only guy who’s not on anything. He has to be the boss. I tell him I’m just making pretty pictures of a sunset, and ask him if it’s okay if to hang out for a few minutes. With a sigh says, alright, and peels off, leaving me in a cloud of dust.

LOGO: Looking at the shots, I get the feel of an almost fetishistic quality – would you say that’s an accurate observation?

LUIS: I always wondered what these cars, clothes etc meant to them. I barely knew what they meant to me – these were unique, fascinating objects, and they perplexed me. That people fetishised these brands was clear. The class anxiety was palpable; they were mostly working-class, blue-collar individuals putting inordinate amounts of resources into their cars and outfits, living out some kind of fantasy. There was role-playing and posturing, but below the surface was an attempt at an expression. They were not trying to purchase an exact copy of an authentic three thousand dollar handbag. There was a gesture here that I couldn’t fully comprehend… I just scratched the surface.

LOGO: In addition to the car interior shots, other works in the series depict the idea of faux fashion branding with a human dimension. What was the motivation behind exploring that side of knockoff culture too?

LUIS: I kept returning to the Dolce & Gabbana backpack and its matching dress – it was so incongruent, it made no sense. That’s when I started to see the connections – I was moving closer to a part of myself that I didn’t want to necessarily see; it was like the project exhumed something in me. I saw in these people – in their possessions – something disavowed.

It’s all very American—informed by urban culture, hip-hop iconography and certain socio-economic issues. I thought about baroqueness and excess, taste and consumption – the social divisions that structure ideas of vulgarity and sophistication. What’s garish, what’s tasteful – the politics of aesthetics.

Interview: Charlotte McManus


About Charlotte McManus

Editor for and Freelance writer - The Creator's Project, SUPERSUPER!, Don't Panic, FAULT, Flux, Who's Jack & more.

Posted on 24/05/2013, in Art, Fashion and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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