A woman walking down the street toting a Louis Vuitton bag, emblazoned with Takashi Murakami’s colorful print is not likely to prompt any double takes. A Cadillac Escalade whose entire interior is lined in a version of Takashi Murakami’s design for Louis Vuitton? Definitely pause-worthy.
That was certainly artist Luis Gispert’s reaction when he discovered the latter on a trip to Miami about two years ago. Gispert, who works in multiple mediums, had originally embarked on a photographic project to shoot sublime landscapes and superimpose them into the windows in his images of specialty vehicles. The 39 year-old had already hunted down custom tractor trailers, military airplanes and customized cars in his endeavors when he found this Murakami number.
“I was just fascinated with this car so I took a picture of it and started to talk to the owner. And I brought up Takashi Murakami and he had no idea who he was, nor did he seem to care,” recalls Gispert. “He was interested in ‘Louis, Louis, Louis.’” Realizing he had stumbled upon a subculture of car—and home and clothing—decorating, he changed tack, setting out to find as many similar examples as possible.
The result is “Decepcion,” opening at the Mary Boone Gallery on Fifth Avenue on September 8th. The show includes images of these logo-bedazzled cars, landscapes viewed through their front windows; women and men who have crafted entire outfits out of ostensibly fake designer textiles, like a DJ who made a jacket and pants of plasticized MCM material, and even a room covered in Versace’s signature medusa motif.
Gispert’s travels took him from coast-to-coast and brought him encounters with both everyday folks and those whose professions he dared not enquire about. There was the mailman who took his late 80's Mercedes and did a DYI Gucci job on everything from its seats to its dashboard and the man whose lime green Cadillac sported an equally blinding shade of green mixed with Stephen Sprouse’s graffitied Louis Vuitton print.
“There’s this class anxiety where they understand that these brands index some kind of wealth, higher class. Now they’re appropriating that. They’re not trying to copy high fashion, they are creating their own things,” explains the Buschwick-based Gispert, who studied film and sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago and got a masters in sculpture from Yale University before moving to New York. “These cars become their fantasy vehicles, spaces they’re creating because they have pretty normal, average lives.”
Well, most of them do. Less so the Florida-based drug dealer whom Gispert surmises was a big deal in the 80s. His mansion, “looked like a set from ‘Scarface,’” says the artist, who focused his lens on the guy’s bedroom, which boasted a round bed covered in a Versace duvet and pillows, a fountain in the back, mirrors on the ceilings, a hot tub and color-coded walls stenciled with Versace’s signature Grecian pattern.
What would possess a person to trick out their bedroom like this is something Gispert prefers to leave to the imagination of his viewers. “Decepcion” (Spanish for disappointment or disillusionment) is his first solely photographic exhibit—he normally combines film, sculpture and photography into a fictional narrative—and as such, he preferred not to have the photos, with their colorful, slightly surreal quality, appear as a commentary on the objects and people captured therein.
“The subject was so hot, I needed to cool it off. I wanted the landscape to appear in the car to make it kind of hyper-real,” says Gispert. “I didn’t want it to have an exploitative, documentarian kind of thing.”
Photos: Courtesy of Luis Gispert and Mary Boone Gallery