Toy Art Gallery on Melrose has a sweet little exhibit up now that will be there through the end of next week: Francesco De Molfetta’s Pop Fiction. De Molfetta’s work is really great, artistically brilliant, incredibly funny, and sardonically satirical. The show features a handful of De Molfetta’s newer works, which are just as great as the ones you know him for (namely, his obese Barbie). We spoke with him about his art, his show at Toy Art, and a few thoughts on Los Angeles.
Your art throws pop culture, heady concepts, and high art into a large pot, stirring them into what becomes your pieces. When creating a piece, what comes first: the pop culture inspiration, the concept, or the art?
Well, I think that the first thing that comes to my mind is the actual figure, in terms of the character/pop icon. There are so many in which we get in contact in our everyday life that they’re imprimed in my imagery. Some just “ring a bell” more than others, and act as a trampoline: that’s actually where the works starts from. So, then the concept is elaborated and the character is modified in its appearance and physical status. The Art I would say is in the rendition of this, in the transformation of the icon. I love to see well executed manual works, not only nice ideas developed in an unconvincing way.
Similar to the previous question, a lot of your artwork mines from very, very common cultural icons, from Batman to Obama and Barbie to the Virgin Mary. What goes into deciding what icon will be the focus of a piece? Obviously, Fatman wouldn’t be Fatman if the obese superhero portrayed was Superman and Gundama wouldn’t have worked as well if it were Gunden, after VP Joe Biden. Are the icons/”brands” your inspiration or the message behind the piece itself?
That’s a very good point: I guess the icons are both the inspiration and the message behind the piece. If the association of thought led to that particular character, there must have been a reason. Most are chosen from my childhood memories (ET, King Kong, Gundam etc.). I like the strong contrast amongst the very common popular icons that become decontextualized in a very precise and thoughtful manner, giving them that little imperfection which gives them the new “role.” The choice of the character is always directly associated to what the final message is. For instance the Virgin Mary’s inspiration was thinking at the religious imagery in a contemporary manner. I was asking myself: “What would the classical portrayed Lourdes Madonna look in the year 2000?” And I thought of beauty and richness of the gowns, and obviously fashion related status. This led to her restyling to become “Lourdes Vuitton.”
You are one of a few artists who are able to satirize pop culture so easily, so well, and at such a large scale. Is there a particular satirist that inspires you?
I think one of the best satirists ever is Mel Brooks. He has been one of the pioneers of “restyling” of movie roles and characters. I know his movies by memory! I also love Matt Groening with the great invention of The Simpsons and, obviously, Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy: it’s my usual goodnight giver! It reminds me of never believing in it too much.
What are you most excited to share/have exhibited at this show? Of course, this is like picking a favorite child, but do you feel that one piece in particular would speak to Los Angeles more than another?
I love all my “kiddies,” each one has a story to tell. And, if you put the pieces of the puzzle together you get my view of life. I think the greatest expectations for this show have been for the Michelangelo sculpture edition, in both small and lifesize format. This one has been the actual lever for the choice of the title of the show “Pop Fiction” as it synthesizes the whole principle behind this series of works. I think the Michelangelo piece will talk a lot about Italy and our “classical,” traditions-related culture, and its encounter with the contemporary industrial world. I think this piece will indeed become a new icon on its own and meet the interest of a large metropolis like L.A. It’s also a way of talking to a young crowd through the lens of a great master sculptor like Michelangelo Buonarroti.
As an artist from outside of Los Angeles, a city that arguable produces much of the world’s pop culture, does the city beg to be satirized? Why and why not? If you think it does, how do you think you would and do accomplish that?
I think L.A. is so highly influential in our aesthetics that I wouldn’t see any reason of satirizing it really. I would think it should be taken with irony if it were a dead-end, murky, serious habitat with obsolete manners and unfashionable ways but I don’t hink this is the case! Although I’d love to make a work for the city in the city one day, attempting one of my “visions” of it/to it. Obviously, ironical and from my personal point of view, but not necessarily satirical.