For Kostas Seremetis, picking a favorite cartoon is like picking a best friend. It’s just unfair.
“There’s something about cartoons that really puts you in a comfort zone,” he says. “They’re fun to work with. It’s almost meditative.”
A host of familiar faces populate Seremetis’ solo exhibition at the Fourthwall Project where he pastes characters we all know into contexts that allow them to speak more powerfully. Mickey’s giving you the finger. Batman has fangs. Captain America’s mask only slightly covers two grinning skulls.
Before moving to Brooklyn in ’96, Boston-native Seremetis debuted his work at local spots like the Otherside Café and Axiom. He has since shown in New York, Tokyo, Paris, Vancouver and London, garnering praise from the likes of Ian Astbury of The Cult and filmmaker Darren Aronofsky.
His work, often deemed abstract impressionist pop art, spans mediums. This exhibition alone features film, painting, sculpture, screenprinting and works on paper.
At the entrance of the stark space, a 126-minute film called “Trilogy” plays on a reel. The film pastes together the right third of Star Wars, the middle third of The Empire Strikes Back and the left third of Return of the Jedi, (“kindof magnificent for a Star Wars enthusiast”) and was shown just last Sunday at the Sydney Underground Film Festival.
“Ready…Steady….Go!” for which the show is named pulsates from the right wall of the gallery’s main space. The painting, a feline hybrid of Felix the Cat and the Black Panther, is all hand-applied with a palette knife– one of those textural wonders you want to run your fingers across.
“This is all my inner dialogue!” Seremetis laughs. He has a black panther tattooed to his right forearm, Felix the Cat on his left.
And, as is the tendency with his work (and with any well curated exhibition) the experience, then, is quite like hoisting a 25 cent bouncy ball into an empty room– across from “Ready…Steady…Go!” the black panther makes a second appearance in what Seremetis calls The Covers. In this series, he reinterprets pop cultural icons as superheroes in the form of comic book covers– think Wu Tang’s RZA, the Black Panther or Andy Warhol, the Silver Surfer.
Seremetis explains: “I read an article about Andy where his art dealer, Tony Shafrazi, said ‘Andy reminded me of James Dean in the Silver Surfer’ and I thought that was really cool and interesting and so I collided the two.”
The original ink pen drawings were so small and delicate that Seremetis worked with printmaker Luther Davis of Axelle Fine Arts to create intricate prints (the silkscreens were done in three different sections, with two different blacks)– something buyers can take home that feel just like the originals.
Smack in the middle of the space hangs a 9-foot wooden star made from police barricades.
“Let’s just say the neighborhood has been really good to me,” Seremetis starts, speaking of his current Brooklyn stomping grounds.
He’s made a few others, but never this big.
“It was really like a terrific orchestration putting it together,” he says. “It’s a very ambitious piece. I was accumulating the pieces and I noticed a formation for the barriers and I thought ‘Oh man if I had five I could make a star.’ Then I thought ‘Well, I could get 12 and make a better star.’”
And so he did. He’d been painting a lot of stars, and wanted to introduce a sculptural element. If you look straight down the axis of the star, it perfectly bisects a star spangled painting on the facing wall.
Despite the clear artistic intent of everything happening in the space, a sort of kid-logic permeates Seremetis as he moves among his work. He’s of that artistic breed that says to the viewer: ‘These are just the images my head, they mean whatever you want them to mean. I’m just having a little fun.’
“Sometimes I get upset because everybody needs a reason and nobody’s asking themselves questions,” he says. “Yeah, I have a personal experience with the material, it’s a bit of a silent revolution, sure, but I want to let people find it. Had I been a politician I could tell you what to do.”
To Seremetis, his job is much simpler: “Look how good that feels,” he says, about the series of batman paintings that a friend one called ‘conceptual comics.’ “That feels good.”
For him, it seems to be about exalting the heroes of his childhood, by putting them into a context that’s altogether more adult.
“I feel like I’m honoring them the same,” he says. “I’m not really dissecting them but I’m honoring them and putting it in a different language.”
Photos Courtesy of Eric Antoniou
[Ready...Steady...Go!]. Fourthwall Project. Runs through Oct. 23, Wed-Fri: 1- 6p.m.; Sun: 12-6 p.m. 132 Brookline Ave., Boston. fourthwallproject.com]