Luis Gispert’s Latest Kreayshawns

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Published September 1, 2011

“When I was growing up in Miami, I participated a bit in car and deejay culture. I was the soundsystem guy who tricked out my friends’ trunks with speakers,” recalls the New Jersey-born, Bushwick-based artist Luis Gispert, 39, who owned a 1987 burgundy Toyota Celica hatchback lowered down with an “800-pound stereo” at the time. “It’s something I’ve always been mining in my work, but I dropped this [car obsession] after high school.”

He revisits that world Sept. 8 at Mary Boone’s Fifth Avenue gallery in “Luis Gispert: Decepcion,” the culmination of two years spent embedding himself among car clubs and label-obsessed gearheads, learning from the guys who pimp out Cadillacs, Lincolns, and beat up late ’80s Bimmers and Mercedes with Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry logo fabrics. “It started out as a landscape project with a large format camera, trying to shoot these sublime sunsets and sunrises,” says Gispert, who traveled as far afield as Dubai and Macchu Picchu to get the sprawling images, which serve as his cars’ fantastic backgrounds. “But I didn’t want to show them as clichéd, ubiquitious landscapes, so I thought to frame them in these handmade, custom vehicles, which started when I shot a replica of the Knight Rider car.”

Gispert went on to shoot military vehicles and low-riders for the series, which he exhibited in 2009 at Chicago’s Rhona Hoffman Gallery. Among those images was a picture of a “triple white”—white paint, white rims, white interior—Escalade customized with the Murakami print Louis Vuitton fabric and green and purple alligator skin, LV Escalades (2009), which he found while tailing a Miami-based car club that led him to the collector who owned this ride. As with the other rides, he shot the SUV wide-format from the back seat and tiled the images together for a seamless 180-degree view. He superimposed it over a chilling landscape of a frozen drive-in movie theater in Northern New Jersey.

Elsewhere, he found a neon green Cadillac DeVille with a matching Sprouse print interior, Sprouse Gouse (all new works, 2011), which he married to a shot of the Swiss Alps taken halfway up the Matterhorn, and a Gucci-clad Mercedes, Gucci Gloom, that hovers above a deserted water park in Death Valley, which Gispert likens to “somebody’s failed dream with a [freeway] exit three miles away.”

Gispert prints the auto landscapes at a nearly 1-to-1 ratio (55 x 90 inches) so the view appears as it would inside the actual vehicles. “With the high-resolution you can see the hand of the people who made them and the limitations,” he says. “In some the stitching isn’t right, the seams are coming apart, things are worn out.”

Equally tattered were the individuals working in this culture, making bags, belts, and outfits from counterfeit materials. “I was kind of resistant to turn the camera on the people, because I was more interested in what they were making, but it was just so compelling,” says Gispert, who captured a woman in a faux-Vuitton evening gown (Maricela in LV), a dreadlocked Montreal deejay decked head to toe in MCM-embossed leather (Dreaded MCM), and a Dolce & Gabbana dress (with matching backpack) made by a woman who refused to be photographed but allowed Gispert to snap a photo of scraps that had fallen below her sewing machine.

Even obsession has its ends. “It was kind of difficult to shoot these people after a while, and in a way this show is a way for me to exorcise all these demons I’ve been dealing with for the past 10 years,” he admits, noting he will release a book about the project with OHWOW during Miami Art Basel before he say goodbye to this crowd. “I’m always going to be interested in the political angle, but after this body of work is done I’ll move on to something else. This is the final manifestation. I have to let it go.”