|Left: Magneto Right: Godzilla|
Alex Gross collects vintage "cabinet card" portraits. He likes to transform some of them into super heroes and other recognizable figures, leaving the original face peering out of its new persona.
His quirky re-imagining of these vintage portraits has given him a lot of press lately from various outlets including designboom, craftzine, and junkculture.
Some commenters over at Craftzine were concerned or downright upset about the idea of Alex painting on original vintage photographs. To them, Alex gives the answer below:
"Yes, I paint on the real cabinet cards. I scan them hi res first so i have a nice record of them as they were. As for how i can destroy art, I don't look at it that way. I have been collecting cabinet photos for over a decade now. I have hundreds, possibly thousands. When you find stack upon stack of them at some flea market or antique store, being offered for a dollar or two, and being purchased by virtually no one, you begin to understand that these photos are being lost to changing times. These are pictures of people's families. How did they even end up in a flea market in the first place? The sad truth is that most people don't seem to care about them anymore.I agree with him, but I'm also very happy to hear he makes a high resolution backup of each photo. I've been trying to digitize my old family photos, backing everything up both for easy access and in case the originals are damaged. I wonder if any of his subjects will be identified by their descendants, now that his work has brought these photos out of hiding? It's a nice idea.
I care about them and I love them deeply.
What I am doing to them is giving them a new life and people are actually looking at them again. What's more, my fundamental rule is to not obscure the face. Whatever i do with them, people can still see the person that is in the picture. It's all about their likeness. Sometimes one will be so amazing that I cannot paint on it because I am afraid to ruin it. So I save those.
What's more, I often come across doubles, since I buy from some of the same sellers. So in many cases, the photo itself is not a unique object.
I understand how you feel, but I like the fact that dozens upon dozens of cabinet cards that I have embellished now hang upon walls in peoples homes, instead of in dusty piles in the back of flea market stalls."
|Left: Wonder Woman Right: The Lone Ranger|
The cabinet cards will be on display, along with nineteen new mixed media pieces in Gross' solo exhibition 'Product Placement,' at Jonathan Levine Gallery in NYC beginning February 25th, 2012.
Images © Alex Gross at alexgross.com