No one pokes fun at the excesses and absurdities of the art world more than the art world itself. Desire Obtain Cherish (D.O.C.), fast gaining status as one of the art world’s notorious bad boys, attracted attention at the 2012 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach for his splashy, provocative display of life-size, nude, vacuum-packed female dolls, logo-embossed designer pills, and portraits of celebrities composed of pill capsules. In a lineage of artists who have satirized a world often seen to worship at the altar of appearances, status symbols, and dollar bills, D.O.C. takes aim at art critics, historians, gallerists, and collectors alike. He finds antecedents in the iconoclasm of Marcel Broodthaers and William Powhida, though his deliberate ambiguity—does his work subvert or validate the art world’s extravagance?—is more aligned with the particular brand of irony practiced by Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons.
Now D.O.C. is back with a vengeance with a new exhibition of his work at Chelsea’s UNIX Gallery, titled “We Are Known By The Company We Keep.” Works such as Waste of Good Wall Space set the tone, with its blown-up acrylic iPhone text bubbles reading “Looks like this is a waste of good wall space to me” and “I know right? I’m a decent wall and I think I deserve better art.” Also on view are a characteristically kitschy presentation of what appear to be stuffed poodles in glass boxes, their fur groomed into absurd coifs and dyed in various pastel hues; a giant, obese cuddly bear; and a deflated, nude female doll, suggesting an unsettling, sexualized version of a Claes Oldenburg “soft” sculpture.
A former street artist and billboard hijacker in L.A., D.O.C. now manages a staff of employees. Speaking of his work, he says, “I don’t want to be the focus... My work is commenting on society and art systems. It’s my role as an artist to maintain manufacturing habits...I’m not an activist. I just give you what you want.” Tongue-in-cheek? We think so.