The Archives: Luis Gispert
Luis Gispert: The Joker
By Oscar Lopez
What’s the difference between an art institute education and going to Yale?
It’s very different. My undergraduate experience was very theory-based, to the point that I stopped making things. Basically I read myself into a corner.
How did you translate that kind of experience at the Art Institute to your Yale experience?
There was a 2 year gap after undergrad, which was great because I got to travel and work, make art, but also live, and I started making objects again. I was making small films but I started making sculptures again, and thats what led me into graduate school. By the time I got to Yale, I decided that it was time to clear up everything from this dogmatic theory that was indoctrinated in me at undergrad. It became about being loose and to actually make things. I was working with Andrea Zittel, Jessica Stockholder, John Miller, and Joe Scalin. It was a very good diverse group of people. At that point, making art or what it was to be an artist was covered by a myth in my eyes. To see all these other working artists work, and to work with them after school as an assistant, the whole process of making art and working as an artist became demystified.
Transforming cars and urbanizing Haute Couture logos can be seen as a process of forgery. Do you see it as something inherently creative?
Definitely. My initial attraction to these people and the cars and the stuff they were doing was obsession. It was clearly a creative act, and even though they are not “artists,” it was their creative outlet. These cars were things they labored on for years in their spare time, and their level of craft varied from very fine to very amateur, and some of them could’ve hired people to have them work on them. I want to go back to the schoolteacher who owns a replica of the car from the Night Rider TV show; he took 5 years and something like $60K to do this project. The actual value of the car is like 3 grand, because it’s an old Pontiac, so it was a huge level of commitment and obsession for a thing and aesthetic. I immediately saw the parallel to an artist in a studio, the rigor, the sheer lunacy of being an artist because, as an artist, you don’t go into a project thinking, “Well, this is going to turn a profit or, this is going to mean something or, someone will care about it.” You’re just making this fucking thing, and if you’re lucky, someone is going to connect to it and even want to take it home with them. I mean, I’ve nearly gone bankrupt twice working on projects, and if you’re lucky you break even. And these guys - a mailman, on a mailman’s salary - is tricking out this old Mercedes into a Gucci fantasy car. And it was him and his buddy and his cousin over the weekends in his garage religiously working and tweaking it. Also with the garments, these ladies that have these little clandestine shops in their basements making dresses, making Quinceañera or prom dresses: the beauty of it is they’re not looking at the high end fashion magazines to get their cues. They’re going on the concept of what they like and what they want to do, and it’s an interpretation of something.
Read the full interview here!