Leo Fitzpatrick, Unlimited
Published March 16, 2011
Swaggering, self-defeating and boyish, Leo Fitzpatrick was first delivered to America via Larry Clark, who found the untrained 14-year-old cursing after missing a skateboarding trick in Washington Square Park. The New Jersey-born actor now brings the same irreverent sincerity to puckish stencil, collage, and drawings.
This week, Fitzpatrick’s limited edition printed buttons—which read “Kill Me I’m Irish” on the front but display handwritten personal messages on the back—are paired with inkjet replicas of a vintage Guinness ad depicting the Mona Lisa with a foamy beer mustache; they’re available in a run of 10 for $250 on Exhibition A, the online, members-only distributor of limited edition or time-sensitive sales on chic and cheeky prints by artists like Richard Phillips and Jon Kessler.
Here we discuss the art that he makes and the art he loves.
ANA FINEL HONIGMAN: When did you first encounter the Mona Lisa vintage ad? What were your initial impressions of it?
LEO FITZPATRICK: I don’t know. Both my parents are from Ireland, so probably pretty young. It’s pretty stupid, so of course I was instantly drawn to it. HONIGMAN: Do you even like Guinness?
FITZPATRICK: I used to, but not so much anymore. The first and last beer I’ll ever drink will be Budwieser. That’s first-generation Irish for you: no respect!
HONIGMAN: “Kill Me I’m Irish” is funny, but could make a keen point about the incongruous relationship between the severe historical prejudice against the Irish, the intense recent political history in Ireland, and Ireland’s current financial nightmare with the cutesy current pop reputation of lovable Irish lushes. Is this part of your thinking with this work?
FITZPATICK: Oh my gosh, these questions are heavy… In response to your question, I’m Irish and sometimes I wish someone would kill me. That’s about it.
HONIGMAN: Fair play. I retract. What qualities attract you to an artwork?
FITZPATRICK: Probably humor and brilliance. Most times, I’ll hate an artist and slowly that hatred will grow into an uncertain fondness for what I initially questioned.
HONIGMAN: Can you describe a work that grew on you?
FITZPATRICK: Well, two of my favorite artists are Josh Smith and Joe Bradley. But I argued against them for years, until I grew to love them and felt stupid for my immediate reaction towards their work. Now, I wouldn’t be happier than to simply be their friend and to talk to them about what got them making art that was years ahead of my understanding. I never went to school for art or was told what to like or when. So every day is a learning process, like most of life.
HONIGMAN: How does creating a limited-edition print relate to your idea of what art should be, who should own it and how it should be collected?
FITZPATRICK: I don’t know… easy access, maybe? I’d be surprised if anyone ever bought it. I guess it’s kinda cheap, so that’s cool.
HONIGMAN: Do you buy any art?
FITZPATRICK: I buy from the gut, and if I’m wrong, then fuck it. I keep it until my gut learns to appreciate it again. I don’t watch Artnet, market trends or anything like that… I basically know who I like. I know where to get it. I wait ’til I’m drunk enough and with enough money to be not shy and then I just buy it. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do. You just have to pull the trigger and you don’t need much money to boot either… if you fuck off rent, that is.
HONIGMAN: What would you own, if you could afford it but can’t?
FITZPATRICK: I’d probably own the house that Daniel Johnston grows old in. I would give it to him and that would be enough. I don’t care about owning. I definitely like sharing. Sharing is caring… Or so they say?
HONIGMAN: That’s part of art making. What about pulling the trigger on making art, especially when you have peoples’ attention from something else? What do you think of James Franco’s polymath practice?
FITZPATRICK: I like James as a person, but I haven’t seen his art. I’m always out of town when his shows are up. I mean, whatever floats his boat… at least he’s not boring.
HONIGMAN: How does art float your boat differently from your other creative activities?
FITZPATRICK: It’s the only thing that I enjoy, I guess, which is kinda fucked if you’re the guy on the outside looking in. I’m not an artist or a collector. I’m a skateboard kid with no one to tell me if I’m not doing things the right way. Low expectations reap great rewards…
HONIGMAN: You should have written that on a button. How do the phrases on the buttons relate to the print?
FITZPATRICK: They don’t. You try being clever on the back of a two-inch pin. If anything, it’s more stupidity.
HONIGMAN: Do you have a favorite phrase from the batch?
FITZPATRICK: I don’t remember writing them, let alone reading them. I mean, come on, how much do I have to suffer for my art?