about the exhibition
July 29–October 17, 2004about the artist
Through richly hued photos and videos, Luis Gispert investigates the relationship between tradition and contemporary culture. Drawing on his urban upbringing and Cuban heritage, Gispert creates unlikely scenarios that collide such seemingly disparate worlds.
In the photographic series Cheerleaders (2001) ghetto-fabulous cheerleaders—adorned with delicate tattoos, airbrushed nails, and platinum jewelry—are arranged into fantastical poses that connect the history of painting with the baroque nature of hip-hop signifiers. The images explore cultural adaptation, and the inevitable intermingling of past and present.
In Goddess, a lip-sticked girl beatifically levitates against a chromakey green background. Her eyes are serenely closed, yet her face is burdened by over-sized hip-hop earrings. The girl gestures to the heavens with her bracelet-laden wrist like a figure from a religious painting—but also like an urban teen throwing gang signs. Gispert’s goddess sports a gold-plated gun charm where her painted counterpart would have worn a crucifix. In this work, as in the others, old school and new school co-mingle to create something in-between.
Luis Gispert was born in Jersey City, NJ in 1972. He has a BFA in film from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL (1996) and an MFA in sculpture from Yale University, New Haven, CT (2001). He has had solo exhibitions at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH (2004); Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria, New York, NY (2004); and Miami Art Central, Miami, FL (2004). Group exhibitions include the 2002 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY (2002); and Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY (2002). The artist currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
about the exhibition
Including both older and newer works, Gispert’s exhibition demonstrates an increasingly explicit interest in infusing contemporary culture with the weight of tradition and art history. Two looped videos are included, as well as seven large-scale photos, three from Cheerleaders (2001), and eight from the artist’s newest project, Urban Myths Part I (2003). The combination reveals Gispert’s continued investigation of the hybrid space of assimilation and adaptation.
In Urban Myths, solitary figures and timeless green screens give way to evocative domestic situations rife with cross-generational possibility. The sets abound with visual signifiers that are more old school and less new—cigars, indicators of the divine, old stereo equipment—that deepen Gispert’s investigation into history and its continual synthesization with the present.
In Dinner Girls cheerleaders reappear, but are subsumed by their surroundings. Three engage in an old-world style séance around a dining room table while gold chains and encrusted medallions float around their necks. Here history holds its own. The girls’ jewelry appears as a contemporary corollary to the ornate mirrors and gilded clocks that fill the parents’ home, and their raised hands seem less gangster and more ode to ancestry.
For Turntables two dapper Cubanos sit in an American-style living room staring up at retrofitted boom boxes floating supernaturally above their heads. With divine doves appearing in paintings and statues around the room, the image remixes future/past.
Gispert’s series Urban Myths Part 1 indicates that the present is a hybrid of the past, and suggests a model of cultural adaptation over assimilation. As two populations intermix, a third, entirely different entity is created. The old is not merely abandoned for the new—traditions, customs, and signifiers co-mingle to form a fusion of behaviors and aesthetics.