Plastic Jesus on His Kanye Statue: 'When These People Show That They're Only Human, We Crucify Them' (Exclusive)
On Wednesday (Feb. 22), a life-size sculpture of a golden Kanye West bearing outstretched arms, Yeezy Boost 350 sneakers and a crown of thorns was unveiled on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard. The crucified Yeezy, who rocks some chains with his humble loincloth, is a reimagined Oscar statue titled “False Idol” by street artist Plastic Jesus.
The U.K.-born and L.A.-based creative, who makes provocative visuals that serve as political and social criticism, started his street-art career a mere four years ago as Plastic Jesus after some time as a photojournalist. The artist will be showing “False Idol” in a special exhibition with former Camp Freddy and Billy Idol guitarist Billy Morrison. Anesthesia: The Art of Oblivion, the exhibit co-sponsored by Gibson Brands and luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin, will showcase a range of equally inventive and thought-provoking works from paintings to large-scale installations.
Billboard caught up with Plastic Jesus about his role in Anesthesia: The Art of Oblivion and his confrontational “False Idol” piece.
What kind of work are you showing for the special exhibition Anesthesia: The Art of Oblivion?
I've got six new pieces in the show, and they're based around a combination of materialism, fame and culture. Anesthesia: The Art of Oblivion is about everything we hang on to in society to make us oblivious of our own plight and our own situation in life -- idols, drugs, anything we can pick up in culture.
Most of the pieces are less controversial than I'm traditionally known for. We've had a pretty busy year with political street art and anti-Trump art in general, and I didn't want people to come to an art show and feel depressed and have severe anxiety.
How was working with punk-gone-visual-artist Billy Morrison for the exhibition?
We collaborated on 12 pieces. We've both got really different styles, so we wanted to see how that would work. Billy works a lot with mixed-media backgrounds, so for some of them he's made the background and I've done a stencil piece on the foreground.
What specifically inspired the crucified Kanye West "False Idol" Oscar statue?
As a photojournalist, I've seen so many times where we’ve built somebody up into an idol, almost a god-like character. When you build people up into a god, there's expectations you have of them. When these people show that they're only human and they err in some way, we then crucify them in the media.
This happened to Kanye just before Christmas -- he went into a medical facility suffering from stress, anxiety and paranoia. But as consumers and as the media, we're all just after a pound of flesh.
How long did it take to create the “False Idol” piece?
It took about six weeks. For the bust, I collaborated with a guy called Ginger [Joshua Monroe], who made the naked Donald Trump figures that appeared on the streets in different cities last year. We met, I told him about the project, and he was keen to collaborate. It’s very difficult to get the likeness of somebody without any toning or color on it, and he did incredibly well.
I don't know whether that meeting was done to make Trump look cool or make Kanye look powerful or if it was a mutual back-scratching situation. But I admire the celebrities that are given that invitation to do similar things and due to their ethics or morals decline.
Do you plan to do any more commentary on the music industry in the future?
For me, music has always been a great inspiration. I was a musician before I was a visual artist -- I played keyboards in a number of bands. But at the moment, when so many artists are engaged politically, I think it's difficult to switch that side of your mind off and engage in other things -- there's a certain responsibility to reflect the mood of the nation in art.
Anesthesia: The Art of Oblivion will be open to the public on Saturday, Feb. 25 from noon to 9 p.m. at Gibson Grands Sunset (formerly Tower Records) in Los Angeles. For tickets and more information, visit Eventbrite.