“As a kid growing up in Houston I collected rocks,” says Christopher Cascio. “I also had a stamp collection and a coin collection and baseball cards, but really what I was into were the Mad magazines and Garbage Pail Kids. That was the stuff that led me to being an artist.” What began with obsessive-compulsive word drawings a decade ago grew into a collaged painting practice — one might call it an image hoarder’s bricolage — that incorporated everything from advertisements of amplifiers and actual clearance stickers to Budweiser labels and nightclub wristbands. They owe as much to the Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers as they do to Mike Kelley and Fred Tomaselli. “I’m a huge fan of Fred Tomaselli,” says Cascio. “He literally puts drugs into his paintings.” More recently, the artist’s meditations on branding have led to two new series of camouflaged map paintings that put Warhol, Madison Avenue, Big Pharma and the shelf of the local marijuana dispensary into a blender. The result is a comical color field adventure; higher learning at its finest.
What was the impetus behind this body of work?
I did a show in 2014 at Peter Makebish’s gallery in New York where I showed these big colorful maps that had pharmaceutical drug brand names, generic names and pill imprint codes. The maps ended up looking like the drugs they were cataloging. The benzos were shades of light blue and the promethazine/codeine cough syrup had shapes of drippy purples that kind of resembled camouflage. They were a critical view of the pharmaceutical industry and how branding happens at that level. It dealt with a lot of socio-political issues. There was a Soma one, a Vicodin one, but I also did one with weed.
Why was that?
I was starting to think about marijuana and how the names of certain strains become that strain’s identity. They’re often given names that pertain to marijuana use, and because marijuana becoming legalized I was also using labels from actual dispensaries. This was 2014, so it’s come a long way in two years. My parents have a place in Winter Park, Colorado and during that time there was a dispensary many miles down the road from Winter Park. Now there are three dispensaries in Winter Park. I don’t do any pharmaceuticals anymore but I still partake in cannabis so it’s something that hits close to home. In my mind, I could always do a series just about that.
And that series is what you’re showing at Maitland Foley.
Yeah, the Drug Map (Cannabis) work from that show in New York is the inspiration. It was a six-by-eight-foot painting and it was a pretty popular piece, it was published in Sneeze, an international poster sized magazine, and it struck a chord with people in the way that the pharmaceutical pieces didn’t. It’s more celebratory.
Meaning that having brands is a win, of sorts, for the average pot smoker while pharmaceutical brands are an example of Big Pharma winning?
Right. And I’ve used all kinds of weed from street drugs to medical marijuana, I’m an equal opportunity-employer in that sense. But I don’t see marijuana in the same way that I see those [pharmaceutical] drugs. So when I was making that first weed painting I was putting in strains that were my favorite strains, making sure that it has more of a connection to my present than to a darker past.
The graphic design legend is seeking to publish a new book edited by Steven Heller that visualizes 5,000 years of war.
Understanding Abstract Expressionism.
Buff Monster drops an exclusive silkscreen edition with the PK shop tonight (5/12) in NYC.
Clint Woodside extends his in-depth photo series to a 68-page hardcover book published by Kill Your Idols.
As pervasive as he is elusive, Banksy is a global enigma that incites a lot of #feels among everyone familiar with his artwork—from fans to the police. But in 2004, the clandestine artist pissed off one supporter in particular: Andy Link, a former porn star who now goes by AK47 and heads up an “art terrorist organization” called Art Kieda. The story goes that Link wanted a signed Banksy print at an event, but didn’t want to cough up the extra dough. Link asked Banksy to sign his standard edition, to which the Dismaland artist refused. The fact he wouldn’t sign his “fucking print” both infuriated and inspired Link, who decided to reciprocate the message by stealing Banksy’s statue, The Drinker.
The convoluted saga—which includes ransom letters, another heist and a replica of the original—has been unraveled in the gonzo-style documentary, The Banksy Job, which recently debuted at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. With so much turmoil happening in the flick, we asked British director Dylan Harvey (who co-created the film with Ian Roderick Gray) to tell us a little more about its origins.
It seems like you were involved in filming the heist from Day 1, so how did this project initially develop or how did you get involved in filming so early on?
Actually the heist happened about five years before we even got to hear about it. We just met a mad man calling himself AK47 who explained his story, showed us the videos he had shot himself over the years and notified us about where he is intending to go next with his venture. When we came in, all he had was a cone and a hard drive of footage and a certificate from the police.
Are you into street art or was making this film more about highlighting the characters?
I have always been interested in street art and Banksy. Spending many years living in East London it was all around me all the time and I saw it develop and grow. I loved it all as a form of dissent, but that alone is not enough to make a movie. It was meeting AK47 and finding out his story that gave us the opportunity to make a heist movie (that is also a documentary and a comedy).
AK47 seems like a legitimate lunatic. Was it difficult to work with him?
Yes and no. He is what you see on the screen so at times he could be extremely difficult, especially when trying to make the logistics work out, but at the same time he was very keen to get his story out there and once he recognized how were were going about telling his story and understood the scale of what we were doing, he was very compliant and also went above and beyond in trying to help us get the extra access and help where we needed it.