A woman dancing in front of a green wall.

Digital video
01:57 min., color, sound
Courtesy of artist and OHWOW Gallery Los Angeles

“He toys with sociological ideas with the intellectual agility of an energetic young semiotics professor.” Alternatively, he “mashes up consumerist pop culture and narco-nouveau riche ‘80s aesthetics with Freudian nightmares and socio-economic provocation.” Such are the varied ways critics have described the work of Luis Gispert.

Born in Jersey City in 1972 and raised in Miami, Gispert is a sculptor, filmmaker, and photographer, who lives and works in Brooklyn. He earned a BFA in film from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996 and an MFA in sculpture at Yale University in 2001. Since graduation, Gispert’s work has been shown in the 2002 Whitney Biennial and exhibited at such venues as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, ArtPace in Texas, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston.

Gispert works in a wide range of media—film, video, sculpture, and photography—to produce artwork that investigates issues of appropriation, social stratification, and cultural currency. He also delves into histories of art, hip-hop, and Cuban-Americans as he blends the Baroque, Pop Art, Surrealism, and Minimalism into his own style.

Gispert has produced films, including Stereomongrel and Smother (both 2005), which purposefully defy filmic conventions in their manipulation of time, sound, and image. The former is a psychedelic trip through the Whitney Museum, the style of which has been referred to “Ninja-Kung Fu-Hip Hop-Surreality,” and the latter follows the painful nightmares and physical transformations of an eleven-year-old boy, which lead to his break from an overbearing mother.

Gispert earned further acclaim for the photographic series shown in his 2011 exhibition Decepción, which features views from the driver seats of customized car interiors. Part of an urban subculture, the owners line everything—seats, doors, consoles, and dashboards—with fabrics covered in the logos of various fashion brands, such as Fendi, Gucci, and Burberry. Immersed within these environments, the viewer looks through windshields that frame views of sublime landscapes that Gispert shot separately. The excessive urban fantasies of the cars seem perfectly paired with the overblown romanticism of the views of lakes, deserts, meadows, and mountains.

Gispert’s latest works from his 2015 Aqua Regia exhibition are large images of flattened gold chains strewn about asphalt slabs. The ornaments appear ribbon-like and crushed into a roadway, but their positioning also mimics famous paintings by Pollock, Matisse, and Morris Louis. They also faintly recall the series of photographs with which Gispert first rose to fame. Cheerleaders (2000) depicts racially diverse women as chonga-style cheerleaders. Wearing gelled hair, long synthetic nails, and piles of fake gold jewelry, the women often levitate like saints in Baroque paintings or sports heroes in publicity imagery. However, Gispert posed the cheerleaders against a green screen—as done to create illusions and special effects in movies—to emphasize the various levels of artifice.

An extension of the Cheerleader series, Block Watching (2003) presents a blonde cheerleader in a crop top and an excess of gold chains, armbands, bangles, and hoops. In between her tough but awkward affectations, she performs sexually and comically aggressive moves as she mouths the unsettling sounds of a car alarm. In a sense, she repurposes the everyday objects or sounds of urban life in a creative way for her own pleasure, an approach that speaks to Gispert’s practice and the subjects that permeate his oeuvre. –Kanitra Fletcher