Desire Obtain Cherish blows minds with his giant resin Blow-Pops and designer drugs, sculptures of super-sized pills stamped with haute couture logos and sealed in plastic packaging. Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint-Laurent, a panacea for our weltschmerz.
His portraits of celebrities, appropriated from familiar images of the famously dead are crafted out of thousands of individually custom colored capsules, or in the case of Amy Winehouse, glass crack pipes, and speak to his background as a billboard hijacker and public space appropriator.
With a background in fashion advertising and art theory, with furniture design and publishing thrown in for good measure, Desire Obtain Cherish is actually a he -- Jonathan Paul. But it's also brand, and beyond a brand -- fine art blends with street, pop, conceptual and appropriation art with razor's edge, using contemporary commerce as a model and as as contextual base for the art, it's manufacturing and its marketing, commenting on social stratification. In an interview at his studio Paul/DOC explains: "I don't want to be the focus... My work is commenting on society and art systems. It's my role as an artist to maintain manufacturing habits...I'm not an activist. I just give you what you want."
And like any well-positioned consumer brand, he gives you what you want before you even know you want it.
DOC began this phase, high art entrepreneur, of his career only two years ago when he was offered a solo show at LAB Art in downtown Los Angeles. Before that, he had been doing street and appropriation art, including billboard hijacks, which really put him on L.A. gallery radar.
"My sights went bigger, into doing installation. I did the giant ice cream cone. We did the DWP workers. Then LAB Art offered me a show. There was full-fledged real estate wide open. I had four weeks, and didn't want to say I had hadn't ever created anything for a gallery. So I took my savings and created 45 pieces of work. In four weeks."
A hit at Miami Art Basel 2012, where he sold 45 pieces, Desire Obtain Cherish is currently showing Scope International Art Fair New York 2013 March 6-10, with Unix Fine Art for The Armory Arts Week, and preparing for "#undertheinfluence," his only Los Angeles solo show, opening March 15, at KM Fine Arts.
In his East Hollywood Studio, three of his 17 employees assemble the gelatin pill capsules that go into making his portraits of celebrities, each of which include an 18-karat gold plated signature capsule. The super-sized resin sculptures seen at Scope are made in another Los Angeles location (For "#undertheinfluence," he's sculpted life-sized naked women and encased them in candy wrappers.) Just before Scope, the pill room crew was at work on a commission piece, a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, one of the icons DOC often uses; his current series focuses on celebrities who died from drug overdoses. The buyer is getting it sight unseen.
Drugs also appear as a medium in his paintings: Adderall, Prozac, and Viagra are crushed and mixed into the paint. These are now pre-sold a year in advance.
DOC's work is precise, controlled, and well thought out without being locked away in an ivory tower. At the L.A. art show, people stopped and laughed at his Blow Pops and pills, pausing to pose and take pictures with the resin sculptures. This is his goal, "People smile at my work because it makes them laugh at themselves," he said.
That laughter doesn't take away from the edge of his art, which -- based on the work for Scope, and in progress for the L.A. solo exhibition -- "#undertheinfluence" promises to be a huge spectacle, a magnifying glass on Los Angeles (and therefore global consumer and creator/consumer culture). Expect "perfect" bodies encased in wrappers, pill portraits, gold bricks, and mind-boggling WTFs. Because under the influence of Desire Obtain Cherish:
"It's all about the 'wow!' and the 'how?!'"
More and exclusive Desire Obtain Cherish Images at CARTWHEELart.com
(All photos used with permission.)