From the DS Archives: Luis Gispert

Originally published on: May 28th, 2009

Luis Gispert recently debuted an exhibition at Otero Plassart gallery in Los Angeles. Gispert’s work is inspired by the idiosyncrasies of pop culture, urban life, cinematic technique, car culture, the uncanny and the poetics of transformation. In his latest show, Gispert explores these conceptual frameworks through the media of three large chromogenic prints and a a stunning, 26 minute short film entitled Smother.


The three large format photographs included in the show surrealistically examine panoramic landscape views and historic landmarks through the cockpits of Veteran-restored military bomber aircrafts and custom freight-liners. This mechanism — of framing and drawing parallels between seemingly disconnected visages through an unlikely, fabricated meta-frame of sorts — is an exploration that continues from Gispert’s last series of photographs. In his 2008 exhibition at Zach Feuer gallery, Gispert selected surreal Latin-American themed imagery and architectural tableaux, from a bizarrely Escalade populated suburban sleepy sprawl, to a processional litter in progress. When these vignettes are seen through the smooth lined, white leather pleated, faux-wood adorned aesthetics of wealth and luxury liners–the question of their relation to poverty, religion and oppression is raised.

Picture 1

In the newest series of works, Gispert instead examines sweeping views of perhaps one of the most amateur-photographed icons — nature at sunset. Gispert notes, “Sometimes I like to start with a problem and work my way out. Sunset landscape photography is one of the most cliched tropes in photography. So I decided to make landscape images that are interesting to me.” Interestingly though, by trying to unpack and revitalize an overexposed genre, Gispert notes that part of the inherent process has been chasing sunsets, trying to capture the sublime moment at a grand scale. In a move that is at once humorous and surreal, Gispert offsets Amsel Adams’ style purist/spiritualist “straight” photography that evokes the grandeur of the natural world with the implication of human presence. In this case, the masculine, psychologically-loaded customized spaces of souped up bombers, RVs and vans both mocks and renders foreign the romanticism of the sunset vistas.

The 26 minute short film, Smother, was a seductive semi-autobiographical narrative following a young boy’s “rite of passage through an Oedipal relationship with his mother.” The film was enchanting and violent, and revealed a penchant for the subliminal and horrific in the way that older, Brothers Grimm fairy tales encompass the nightmarish and fantastical. The film fluidly straddled the cinematic languages of science fiction and neo-noir to create a story that was at once powerful and unsettling.


Overarchingly, there is a certain dreaminess that pervades Gispert’s work: at once irrational, beautiful, slow and unexpected turns between the transcendent and the dark, with a languid sense of observing the in-congruencies in the images presented. “I tend to work slowly; several months usually elapse between idea and execution. When a new idea arrives I like to play with it in my head for a long time….I rarely make drawings, if something is too clearly illustrated on paper it’s finished for me, there’s no discovery left….I like to leave myself some room for improvising….I like the tension of not completely knowing what’s going to happen,” says Gispert. This modus operandi of holding, molding and shaping an image in his mind’s eye, rather than on the fatalistic and concrete media of paper, which locks in development seems to play a role in his works general aesthetic. “I don’t consider myself a ‘photographer’ as the camera is just another tool to illustrate an idea….I’ve always liked artists whose works resemble a group show….I don’t like when things are clearly defined or understood. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I jump around from medium to medium.” Perhaps it is this seemingly psychic induced conception process and fluid movement between genres & media that casts such a strangely hallucinatory light on his work- which unfold, as dreams do, nonsensically, but somehow with a divinely inspired sense of purpose.

Luis Gispert was born in 1972, in Jersey City, New Jersey. He has exhibited extensively throughout the United States, Europe, South America and the Middle East including MOCA North Miami, FL; Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria, New York; PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Studio Museum of Harlem, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK; His work has also been included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, New York, NY; Private collections include Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.