Luis Gispert is a Cuban American artist working in Brooklyn. His upcoming exhibition "All Oyster, No Pearl" combines elements of photography, sculpture, and installation to create minimalist totems of culturally disparate objects. The works play with cultural currency and the invisible hierarchies that divide art from low culture and utilitarian objects.
Gispert gained attention for his photographs of cheerleaders donning hip-hop jewelry; he has since been known for his Baroque bling aesthetic. Drawing on the fantasy and disillusionment of luxury, Gispert analyzed subtle concepts with opulent visuals.
For his current exhibition Gispert strips his look down to the essentials, showing just how deeply cultural associations pervade simple objects. While a hip-hop chain carries blatant cultural associations, a plain chair is far more subtle. Other materials include a wheel, a 40-oz beer and a gold chain; objects we all recognize are removed from their usual function and relabeled as art. The works bring a conceptual resonance to the cliche "one man's trash is another man's treasure."
The monochromatic exhibition looks radically different from most of Gispert's previous works, yet the same themes of cultural context run throughout. Why do we associate certain objects with certain places, people, values and function? What if we could see differently? This exhibition presents a rare chance to do just that.
We asked Gispert some questions about his new works:
HP: How did you come up with the title of the exhibition, "All Oyster, No Pearl"?
LG: I was reading a short story with the title "All Oyster, No Pearl". I thought it was a very funny term. You see something and you think it is really valuable or has something good or great at the center, but you open up and there is no pearl. It is all packaging. It's symbolic for a lot of things in life that you think are going to be great and then they're not. Or things that just have a double meaning. You think something is one thing and you look deeper and you see something else, like in people.
HP: This collection feels like a departure from your normal hip-hop baroque aesthetic. What brought on this change?
I kind of got into this baroque hip-hop stuff because it made sense at the time, it was the late '90s, with what was going on in pop culture it made sense. Now it doesn't really make as much sense anymore.
I think the themes and ideas are still there in what I'm talking about. But I was looking to pair things down to the very bare essentials. I guess you could say I am a closet formalist. Even thought my stuff is very baroque and very opulent. My lifestyle is super minimal and super paired down. I don't wear jewelry, I don't have a bright green, low-rider car. Even though I grew up with that, that is not my space. Things are very formal and modern. I just took a left turn doing this other stuff for a while.
HP: This exhibition focuses on currency and value. What is your view on the art market these days?
LG: Actually, I don't think about it at all. I can't stop and think about the value of art because it would be complete paralysis. I am not interested in talking directly about the market. The show more talks about cultural currency and how one object, because it is an object of art, and it's in a certain social, economic, intellectual context, means it is valued as something. And if it is somewhere else, all the sudden it's called kitsch or it's called pop or it's called ghetto. It has a different type of value. I am more interested in the intrinsic values and what it means in culture. Why some art is worth a certain amount and why other art is not. Not so much what the market means, I could really care less.
HP: Is there a certain artist who influenced this collection?
LG: I thought a lot about Fischli and Weiss, they did a series of photographs in the 70's which were these compositions of things floating together, I was thinking about a lot of 70's conceptual photography. I think a lot about Felix Gonzalez-Torres.
"All Oyster, No Pearl" will show from April 7 until May 12 at OHWOW Gallery in Los Angeles.
See a preview of Gispert's works below: