A Conversation with Pop Art Icon Marko Stout

by Yuna Shapatava

A conversation with iconic New York pop artist Marko Stout at exhibition opening of Erotic Allure Volume II at MC Gallery (May 9, 2019) 

Hi Marko, thank you for your time, how is the exhibition going?

Way cool, it’s been a wildly awesome show! This is actually my second solo show at the venue, and it been amazing! The crowds have been huge, many cool celebrities have shown up and we sold most of the work, and actually I think all the pieces have been sold. I don’t really judge success by sales, but it certainly makes the gallery owners happy.  I love exhibiting at this legendary gallery, many other famous artists have been here before me. 

Do you have any memories from childhood that you think inspired you to be an artist?

I grew up in a small working-class town on the Jersey Shore, so art was never really talked about and certainly as a career was never an option. I remember seeing Andy Warhol on TV and thinking this guy is really different, very interesting and he hangs around with so many cool people- nothing like the people I grew up around. How did he do that? I also remember John (Lennon) and Yoko (Ono) interviews and I thought they were just the coolest people on the planet, and I would love to hang out with them- and how coincidentally I actually live around the corner from Yoko and see on the street her every now and again.  

What is your understanding of contemporary art. Where does the contemporary begin for you?

I think contemporary art is a very democratic art form, very free, more experimental and not clinging to marble sculptures and older past traditional painting styles. Contemporary art really begins with the French impressionists, but I think it took Warhol and the artists of the 1960s to make modern art more accessible and a hell of a lot more interesting. Warhol certainly has a major influence on my work, as does the metallics and vibrant colors used by Jeff Koons, although my subject matter is much different. And, lately I’ve been getting a bit more into video art and experimental music, which I plan to incorporate more into my next exhibitions.   

Your favorite exhibition you cherish?

Good question. I usually love my last exhibition and latest works the best. My last exhibition was called, “Erotic Allure Volume II” and I really liked the way it was curated and turned out. One of my favorite exhibitions was at another Chelsea gallery a couple years ago, someone brought their pet pig to my show. The fellow somehow got off his leash and spent the night terrorizing the guests. They’re very slippery and really quite hard to catch. He ran around the gallery for hours snorting, hoping in and out of pics, tearing at clothing and causing all kinds of problems- my kind of guest!         

 Do you have your favorite works by you?

Usually it’s one of newest works, I tend to get bored easy and like new works. But, my favorites maybe the large sculpture we did a few years ago for the Art Basel show. They are ten-foot female figures in very vibrant colors, I especially like the gold one. We sold a couple to a Berlin night club and they look really cool in that setting. Also, a large multi-panel aluminum piece called ‘Erotic Nightmares” is one of my favorites, there’s earie look in her eyes. And, some of my video pieces I’m very proud of, I see incorporating much more video work in my upcoming shows.       

 Why are they your favorite?

Sometimes and exhibition really comes together the way you envisioned it. My last exhibition at the Gallery MC was like that. The images all worked well together and produced an interesting narrative if you followed them from the front of the gallery to the back. We also had as DJ incorporating experimental music into the show, I think that really added a lot to the overall vibe I was going for.        

Conceptual art, the goal of it for you personally?

I don’t what my art to be the image, I want it to be the meaning. We now have all these modern tools to use that past artist could only dream about and I plan to use them to express my work to the fullest. I’m talking about things like the high-tech aluminum that my images are embedded into, the high resolution dyes we uses, the digital manipulation of images, video and sound– it’s all really very exciting!  

Material you prefer to work with?

I like metals, lately I’ve been using an aerospace grade aluminum with high resolution dyes which produced very vibrant images- the colors are more intense then you would get with paint and canvas techniques. The digital dye sublimation really makes the works pop. And also, I plan to use more video, film and sound in my upcoming works. For my sculptures I prefer high polished stainless steel.

Are the models the “tools” for your art or just objects in your art work?

My models always bring their own personality, sense of style and their story to the work. I usually know what I’m going for with a piece, but they often it takes things in an interesting direction I never imagined when starting the work. I usually wind up catching the vibe of the moment.

Who is your inspiration, the artist that inspired or inspires you the most?

I live in New York City, and my inspirations comes mostly from my surroundings, the people, sites, smells and general vibe of the city. And, since New York is the most diverse place and really the center of the universe, it captures what I’m going for. Also, some wine and good weed helps.   

What does your logo the rose and the sword mean ?

I really like the way the logo turned out and think it looks very cool. I like to leave the meaning open to interpretation and don’t want to give the whole story away, its more fun for the viewer to think about it a bit. But, in general the rose is symbolic of the rosy superficial society that I want to drive a dagger through and expose its hypocrisies… let it bleed!     

 Lips, faces, bodies….what has more character for you?

I love the sensuality of lips. Actually, have a series just focusing on lips- they are one of my most popular works, so I think other people find the sensuality in them as well. The curves of body parts and the eyes really are what give away my pieces meaning- often its very subtle but if you look close enough its always there in my works. 

 Do you see any difference between your American and European audiences?

 Not really so much, but I tend to draw younger fans in America and they really seem to get my work. Some of the American galleries seem most obsessed with sales, branding and earning profits, board of director and administration type things, but the young people here are still more into the actual art work and are a better audience. That’s not as true in Europe, they have more of a history of art for art sake and not as profit driven- so they let me experiment more, not always a greatest hits type show. I really like Berlin that is one cool art town! So, in this sense the European galleries are more open to artistic expression, experimentation and less obsessed with the gift shop.     

Where do you usually work, let me guess -New York?

Yes. Good guess… but really, it’s obvious (Marko laughed). I live in New York City and spend most of my time here, so that’s where I draw impression, meet my models and have my largest following for fans. There’s always something new happening here every day and its very reflective of our times and culture in general, so that helps me stay very relevant as a contemporary artist.     

How long does it take you to take on new idea you build the exhibition around?

I’ve always embraced procrastination. I like to party and have my fun, and then work intensely right before the deadline. My college years were filled with late night cramming for tests and I suspect that habit has carried over into my professional life. It works well for me, but I’m always observing my surroundings and taking mental notes of sort which I usual to draw on when time comes to create the actual works, so in that sense my work is continual.     

You are an urban artist. If not urban style, would you pick village landscapes, mountains or nature? I notice the space in your work. Any switches expected?

I grew up on the Jersey Shore, spent my teen years surfing, working on the boardwalk and then lived for a while on a houseboat in California on the San Francisco Bay. So, obviously I’m very influenced by the sea. The way light reflects and changes colors on the water is unlike anything else- it changes movement to moment and always looks different. So, maybe sometime I’ll retire to Key West and sell my seascape watercolors to tourists on the beach (Marko smiles).  

You are the founder of film festival and you have these short films projections. Is that the urban concept or other idea as the basis of it?

Most of my films are urban and shot here in New York City with my models and real people, not actors. I like a very natural authentic feel. Certainly (Andy) Warhol’s experimental movies have had a great influence on me. Chelsea Girls, Edie Sedgwick, Kiss, Sleep are among my favorites. I also, like the great European film makers like Fellini, Bergman and Mastroiani.

Photography itself what fascinates you in doing it?

I often like to begin my pieces with an interesting photograph and then build upon it, I sort of treat the photograph the way painters use a canvas as the foundation for their work. And with modern tools, I can then add colors, texture and everything needed to produce the image I’m going for. Also, this allows for me to produce a digital image which can be infused into an aluminum base that creates my trademark vibrant works. I really like the finished piece with this approach.

What do you do when the model does not feel the character you want her to be? Any quotes, encouragement that helps you get them into the character?

Usually that’s never really a problem. Most of my models tend to be on the same page as me and feel what I’m going for. Often some interesting music helps to set the mood, I like the Velvet Underground, sort of channels Warhol’s spirit and gets things going. And sometimes a little wine and weed is involved.   

How do you get ready for the work, feeling it?

It’s really different every time. I know some artists have set rituals or need a certain environment to begin their work. But, that’s really not me.  My work is very personal and I’m often just documenting how I feel or what I’m thinking in that moment and I think it’s that authenticity the viewer can identify with.

Your favorite Urban landscape (of course its New York, would you please describe the place)

I like the way New York juxtaposes very modern buildings and soundings with older historic brick and traditional elements. There’s really no other place like it. In a certain way the New York City landscape is the other major character in my works.  But, it’s really the people in the landscape that interest me most and have the greatest influence on my work. There are so many cool and interesting people here in the city that I never run out of ideas.   

You have fans and you have favorite models. You make accent of eyes and faces. What do the faces tell you and what do you try to show us through those faces?

Many if my models have a similar look or vibe, and that’s just my style. But, every model, every face is a bit different, so the story is different every time. I try to work with interesting people and that keeps my work interesting and ultimately tells a relevant narrative. I avoid ordinary uninspiring people, that would certainly make my pieces boring.

What are your future plans, please?

I’m really very busy now and the next few years are already filled with more solo exhibitions here in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Berlin and talking with other galleries both in the US and Europe. Also, working with a local New York designer who’s incorporating my images into limited addition jackets and his upcoming clothing line. And, I what to produce some longer art films with a bit of character development, maybe 45 minutes or so, not just the shorts I’ve done in the past. I have some very cool and interesting ideas and my models are eager to participate in the films. Also, working on some newer large size sculpture works and installation type projects. So, yes very busy!

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