The Scintillating Messes of Pedro Pedro
At Pedro Pedro’s latest exhibition at The Hole in Tribeca, you’ll find eight new still life paintings overflowing with unexpected objects. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner—plus used cutlery, art supplies, medicine cabinet staples, and other odds and ends—are piled anarchically onto wooden surfaces, as if the artist just emptied his refrigerator, purse, and pockets onto the canvas. Pedro’s painted world is, in short, a neat-freak’s nightmare; cursed combinations abound.
And yet, mess has never looked more alluring. The satisfying graphic precision, electric color, and seemingly supple, organic texture of every form invite viewers into Pedro’s jumbled domestic universe and let us linger for a while.
Gazing upon Pedro’s imagined disorder, it will come as no surprise to viewers that the artist feels comfortable operating amidst clutter and chaos. When asked about relocating from New York to L.A., he’ll tell you, through laughter, about how he paid for the move with the settlement he received from a medical malpractice suit related to the loss of his testicle—the result of a brutally humiliating courtroom performance. He’ll also talk about the sunny California mornings he spends “stumbling” between his house and his garage studio, which he keeps filled with “cool trash,” and the springtime birds that swoop inside and startle him while he’s painting.
A few days before his show, Cantaloupe and Kokomo, opened to the public, Interview called up Pedro Pedro at his home in L.A. to hear what the artist had to say about his bold and ever-quirky new works.
“Chair with Aloe Plant, Bologna, Bag of Fruit and Paintbrushes”
“I start off with a small sketch. I take that small sketch and I take a photo of it, put it into Photoshop and then do a collage, a digital collage of whatever I want to make. I take a bunch of images from clip art or wherever the hell. I kind of mash it together with one of my images. And then I’ll start working on the canvas from that image, where I’ll draw it out in chalk first. And then from there I start using Dye-Na-Flow, this dye-paint sort of situation. So I start building that up—it’s kind of a wash—circling up the wash, start drawing out the images, put the background in. And then from there, I start putting on more acrylic and things, which builds it out a little bit more.
Sometimes I end up spending too much time with the paintings, where I’m obsessively going back over and over and over again. I never remember how to do anything. Every time I paint a lemon, I feel like it’s a new experience. I’m like, ‘What? How did I do this last time?’ It’s ridiculous. I don’t know if it’s ever done, actually. I have to kind of walk away from it, abandon it. When the image starts to pop for me, that’s usually how I can kind of tell…. I try to give them as much life as I possibly can.”
“Tray with Salad, Tea and Cigarettes”
“I woke up four months ago and I got this weird lump on my foot, this weird foot stigmata. So I was like, ‘Okay, I got to start trying to do better. Maybe I’m getting older now. Maybe I have to start treating myself a little bit better.’ Although I still have problems with that. I’ll be like, ‘I’m just going to have one drink with my friend.’ And then it’s 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and I’m stashing beer bottles like, ‘Why does this keep happening to me?’ It’s a constant struggle, trying to wake up, be better, do yoga. Trying to be healthier, have a nice normal lifestyle. Then I keep going back.
And one morning, as I’m doing some half-ass yoga and kind of hungover, I’m looking at one of the paintings that’s in the corner of the room at the time. And I just start to look at this big lush bouquet of salad and all these other elements around it. You have a crushed pack of cigarettes, an empty beer can. I started seeing that there was something there. I think that lifestyle kind of reflects in the work.”
“Table with Oysters, Lobster, Laundry, Shrimp, Dog and Steaks”
“[During lockdown in January,] I started out kind of repetitive, like, ‘Okay. Every day, here it is again… every day, it’s lunch, dinner, whatever. It’s all we do.’ And then things started opening up a little bit more, and I painted this big bowl of lush fruit and things. Then I thought, ‘Okay, well maybe I’m starting to open up.’ So I did the big table piece after that. There are oysters in there. Like, ‘Oh, we’re actually going out to get dinner or lunch or something; I got bloody Mary out of the house.” I’m kind of branching out. But there’s still the pile of laundry there in the corner. You’re still stuck [in lockdown], but it seems like there’s more stuff going on now.
I think I saw the dog as a bit of a self-portrait. It was like me if I were a dog, peeking through the foliage of whatever that thing is. And as you can see, I’m kind of witnessing the world opening up from afar. Like, ‘Oh wait, it’s happening. Okay, here we are.'”
“Wood Bowl with Cantaloupe, Knife, Grapes and Flowers,”
“I’m trying to not make them overly sexual in any way, but I sometimes just kind of do it. I have no control over it. I just want to make a nice fruit bowl. If it ends up having other connotations to it, well, I guess that’s what it is.”