This week West Hollywood’s De Re Gallery unveils its latest exhibit, Pop Fiction, from artist Mauro Perucchetti, who is a master craftsman as comfortable working with pigmented resin (an especially difficult medium to manipulate) as he is using his other tool, social commentary — another especially difficult medium to manipulate.
Perucchetti currently has a public installation in West Hollywood Park (across from the Pacific Design Center and its MOCA offshoot). The sculpture, titled “Modern Heroes,” features pop art versions of two familiar comic-book icons. “I made 'Modern Heroes' in 2010 as a commentary on the gay community and its struggle for equal rights,” he explains. We caught up with the artist to uncover what motivates him
Out: What was this issue especially important to you?
Perucchetti: It is a typical example of human rights and the abuses that come along with it. It is something I was exposed to in many different ways, especially in the 1960s. My experiences have left me particularly sensitive to the subject, and for good reason.
Freedom and equality are utopian, but it feels more and more like these ideals are being attentively distributed rather than given out as the human rights they are. That’s not right.
In your piece titled "Modern Heroes," why choose Batman, posed similarly to Michelangelo’s Adam, and Superman to represent this idea?
As they say in disclaimers: these are fictional characters. Any reference to real people or places is coincidental. It is just a case of image appropriation.
I spent some of my formative years in Rome when I was younger, and I remember being in awe of the amazing art disseminated throughout the city. I still feel that admiration and, a few years ago, I found the opportunity to combine that same classicism with contemporary issues and my style of art.
Batman has opened himself up with this perfectly toned body and his rather flamboyant costume. His reclined position is, yes, similar to Adam’s. However, it suggests temptation, with his hand delivering a tickle.
Superman was perfect for the same aesthetic qualities. His famous characteristic of ripping off his clothes to abandon his façade of Clark Kent made him a perfect counterpart. It is as if he was returning to his domestic household and saying, 'I’ve been flying all day, I can’t wait to go to bed!’
"Don’t Mess with the U.S." (left) and Perucchetti (right)
There’s an aggression to some of your past work — hand grenades, billy clubs, hypodermic needles — packaged in a colorfully slick, almost toy-like or candy-like way. Is the stark white and softer tone of “Modern Heroes” indicative of a new direction?
"Modern Heroes" is simply a different body of work, not a departure of my previous style. I wanted this sculpture to be representative of the art I “lived with” in Rome. I chose the most precious pure white marble available in Italy, called Bianco P, to do so.
However, I also wanted the “museum look.” I wanted this piece to be the first thing you noticed and, on a double take, I wanted the subject to emerge. It had to be monumental in order to deliver the message I was trying to send."
In general, what influences or inspires your work?
I have a great appreciation for life and our world. Therefore, I am greatly frustrated by the fact that I would like to fix some of the things that are wrong with it. I can’t and it pisses me off. I most importantly have not great respect, but great consideration, for everyone in this world. I revel in exploring what makes us tick.
Imagine all of the information that would be stored in the memory of your computer if you only had one laptop your entire life: that’s you. However, we are not machines. All of that information can carry damaging viruses that can crash you at worst or hone you at best.
Remember all the reactions you had every time you were exposed to new downloads and how different you can feel every time life makes you revisit this stored information (I am very careful not to call it memory, as that is too attached to the past)
My art is the result of a cocktail of personal experiences and passions: a conscious passion for life, a physical and instinctive passion that I simply can’t describe and, lastly, a passion for aesthetics. This is why I make my art, and why I make it as it is.
What other things should we expect to see in your show at the De Re Gallery?
A bit of Americana, which has been extracted from a body of work I did called “Don’t Mess with the U.S." Also, you’ll see a range of wall sculptures in pigmented clear resin that I call "ablets.' The subjects of those "Tablets" have been carved on thick slabs of pigmented resin from behind and resemble my more iconic work.
De Re Gallery also insisted on showing a few abstract pieces and, to celebrate the public installation sponsored by the City of West Hollywood, I am showing an original smaller marble version of “Modern Heroes.”
Now that marriage equality seems to be (mostly) settled, what issues might we see you conquering next?
Power and its abuses are the world’s No. 1 enemy. Governments, financial institutions and oil, food and pharmaceutical companies have their Taser guns attached to the most sensitive parts of our bodies. Being water-boarded by art is a good medicine.
Pop Fiction, through October 10. De Re Gallery, 8920 Melrose Ave., W. Hollywood, Calif.