Armed with a camera on a cross-country roadtrip, renowned photographer and sculptor Luis Gispert sought lowrider cars and low-country landscapes—in his own words, “chasing sunrises and sunsets”—that he would later superimpose through the windshields of specialty auto interiors. In a colorful twist of fate, Gispert came across a Miami local with a car entirely clad in Louis Vuitton—Murakami print—beginning his love affair with the subculture of brand-fanatics and their decked out, bootleg-designer interiors, as well as changing the course of his project.
Artsy: How did you conceive of this project?
Luis Gispert: The project started out of a desire to get out of the studio where I was predominantly making films and sculptures. It was a romantic yearning to travel, to be lost in a sublime landscape with a camera, alone for days waiting for the perfect light. Alas the clichéd ubiquitous landscape photograph bored me tears, I needed to frame the landscapes in a context that interested me. My interest in subcultures, particularly custom cars, and airplanes provided me a place of departure. The project became a combination of two photographs, one of the landscape, the other an interior of a highly modified, fetishized vehicle taken from the point of view of a driver or passenger.
Artsy: Can you elaborate on your experience in Miami that made you steer from your original course?
LG: I’m in Miami after following a car club for a couple of weeks up and down the state. They’ve been doing a series of car shows. I’ve been stalking very unique car interiors to shoot. I’ve already photographed three of their members’ cars. One member tells me about his cousin who has a very “dope” Cadillac Escalade. We meet at an Opa-locka gated community, one of these nondescript apartment complexes where all the buildings are identical. I meet the guy, a short Trinidadian with a contagious Caribbean accent. I follow him back to a row of small, single car garages. White boxes with roll-up doors.
He rolls it up and inside—I don’t know how he stuffed it in there, there’s barely room to get in the door—there’s this giant pearl white Escalade. The ride is completely decked out. It’s sitting on 24 inch white rims. I peer inside and the interior is entirely upholstered with Louis Vuitton Takashi Murakami, accented with green and purple crocodile skin. I’m floored. Immediately I think of Takashi Murakami—before even thinking about Louis Vuitton. I bring it up with the owner. He doesn’t know who Takashi Murakami is. I explain to him what Murakami does, but he doesn’t seem that interested. What he is interested in is Louis—it is all about the Louis. It makes me wonder if Vuitton used Murakami, not as a fine artist but as a designer ...
In the lowrider culture, themed cars are a trope. I’ve seen cars themed after products like Lemonheads, Newports, grape soda. There are Skittles cars, Klondike Bar cars. Out of all of these themed cars, I notice that those making the designer name ones seem a bit more off center from the rest. These luxury brand cars connote something else, beyond the quotidian, beyond football, beyond menthol cigarettes. That’s what really got me excited to start this two-year hunt.
Artsy: Can you tell us in particular about the two images you’re showing at Art Basel in Hong Kong (C-5 and Louis Uluru)?
LG: C-5 is the cockpit of a Cold War era refueling “stratotanker”. This is the airplane that would refuel B-52s carrying nuclear payloads in mid air as they flew around the clock at the height of the Cold War. The landscape is the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah invoking a sinister aura reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove. Louis Uuru is a BMW sedan owned by gentleman in the South, the proprietor of two gentlemen’s clubs. He’s extremely fond of the classic LV designs and considers himself a collector. The landscape is Uluru Rock, a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia. Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area.
Look for Luis as a part of Art Basel in Hong Kong on Artsy, and stay tuned for the second part of our interview where Luis tells the story behind one of the most decadent cars: the hot pink, Coach-clad Mark III.
On view at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Art Basel in Hong Kong - Galleries, Booth 1B10, May 23rd – 26th.
Explore the fair in its entirety: Art Basel in Hong Kong on Artsy.