Artist Highlight: Alex da Corte
Philly-based artist Alex Da Corte is an all-around multi-tasking multimedia creative. Known to also be an avid collector and scavenger, he often draws inspiration from found objects and his works in video, installation, and painting consists of “mis-matched” objects. Through Alex’s creations, he makes work that transcends its material origins, inviting his audience to challenge the notion of authority while simultaneously outlining the communities from which they exist. His latest works (which includes sneakers he bought from UBIQ) can currently be seen in the “Camp Paradox Days” group exhibit at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery at the University of the Arts, right here in Philly. We caught up with Alex to see what his transformative pieces were all about.
UBIQ: Let’s just get the intro out of the way for our readers who may not be familiar to who you are. State your name, what you do as an artist, what you’re known for and what inspires you.
Alex da Corte: My name is Alex Da Corte. I primarily work with plastic and color. I’m inspired by my family and the street.
UBIQ: You were born in Camden. That must’ve been interesting.
Alex: Yeah, Camden is a beautiful and fraught place- once home to Campbell soup, RCA records, and Patti Smith. As I remember, they have very eventful Devil’s Nights.
UBIQ: And you went to Yale?! And in between here and there, you lived in South America and now currently reside in our great city of Philadelphia.
Alex: Yes- I moved around quite a bit when I was younger and saw a lot of different textures. In some ways, that brutal clash of culture shaped my taste.
UBIQ: Please tell us about “Camp Paradox Days”, and your contribution to the exhibit, which utilizes sneakers – bought from UBIQ!
Alex: The show, Camp Paradox Days, was organized by the curator Sid Sachs. It is a five person group show featuring work that investigates camp and pop culture through painting, sculpture, and photography. I have several sculptures in the show that I consider to be portraits of my family members. The work entitled Head, which utilizes the sneakers, is a portrait of my brother.
UBIQ: Do you have a favorite sneaker?
Alex: I have a pair of La Coste sneakers that I found under a palm tree buried under the sand the first time I went to LA. They are a size too big but they are definitely my favorite.
UBIQ: You work in multi-media, is that because it’s so easy to incorporate everyday objects into to your art or because you just find yourself mixing things from different mediums together?
Alex: I believe every material is something one could build with. In this way, there is a leveling of class, sex, and race typically embedded within the objects- or a prompt to reconsider the histories attributed to what is “good” and what is “bad.”
UBIQ: For your creative process, how do you group things together usually? Is there an overarching theme you follow, or do you just make things as they come to you and leave them in the corner until the moment is right?
Alex: I have often thought of garage hobbyists or teenagers who make bongs from apples and tinfoil to be true inventors. I think for the bong maker, the driving force is desire, and the goal for the “sculpture” is utility and form. Simple problem solving skills applied to disparate objects equals bong as sculpture. For Head, I was thinking of how there is a cultural fetish for the newest Nike, and how that desire is always morphing. What does it mean to turn a desirable sneaker into a bong? Does it procure double desire? What does it mean to desire beyond obtaining that which you desire?
UBIQ: What about the process of getting dressed? What determines your outfit for the day?
Alex: I like thinking about other peoples’ clothes as costumes, or paintings you can wear. My clothes are pretty plain though- grey tee shirts and blue jeans, I like to stick to the classics and avoid “outfits.” I do have a very old Tim Burton Batman tee shirt that I like to wear a lot, though…
UBIQ: You once mentioned that the suburbs are a great place of inspiration, because of how overlooked the ordinary things are. You also said repetition is important to you. Considering how monotonous things in the ‘burbs tend to look over and over, is there a correlation?
Alex: Yes, for sure. I think there are certain behavioral patterns in the suburbs that strive for a certain kind of hetero normativity that I am interested in exposing as perverse and quite strange. I think that John Carpenter’s Halloween speaks to that perversion so beautifully. The tension that hovers between the outside of a home and the inside is something that continually attracts me.
UBIQ: Your work also seems to run along the themes of duplicity, juxtaposing seemingly contrasting ideals, not just the comic/tragic arc, but turning “junk” into something of value, or even combining your pieces with other artist’ creations. What is it about these side-by-sides that you’re drawn to?
Alex: This kind of mashing is commonly found in mixtapes and music making. I consider the “cover” as another kind of mask- one that unravels the history a song or object might carry. In some ways it allows for an object to have a temporary second life, or a simulation of one at least.
UBIQ: In a past interview, you were described as “unquestionably… an heir to the American school of pop.” How does that make you feel?
Alex: I think Christopher Bollen [from Interview Magazine] was very kind to say that, but I think there is a whole generation of artists raised on pop, or cola, or soda or whatever you call it…
UBIQ: What are your thoughts on the digital world and how images can live on the internet forever and ever, versus an artist’s installation work which might only be experienced within a short time frame.
Alex: I think we need both- but like the homes we see in the suburbs, we are only seeing the well kept lawns and the high gloss trim, and in order to get a real taste of what is inside you have to open the door and go in.
UBIQ: Your favorite product is ketchup… Would that make you a foodie?
Alex: (Laughs) Yes indeed.
UBIQ: How would you like to end this interview?
Alex: Happy Halloween.
Don’t forget to check out Alex’s work in “Camp Paradox Days” at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery at the University of the Arts (Anderson Hall 333 S Broad Street) which ends October 8th, 2013. *Photos by Bobby Whigham.