Luis Gispert, a renowned American artist, has spent the past two years exploring a subculture of people who customize their own belongings — cars, particularly, but also clothes and even housewares — with designer logos. He first stumbled upon the phenomenon in 2009 when he was photographing low-rider cars for another project. "I met this guy who had an all-white Cadillac Escalade, and he had done the whole interior in that multi-colored Takashi Murakami Louis Vuitton pattern," he recalls. "The guy didn’t even know who Takashi Murakami was. He just really liked the pattern and the colors and he liked that it was Louis Vuitton."
Intrigued, Gispert began asking around at car clubs and car shows for folks with logo-printed rides. He wound up finding a Gucci car, a Burberry car, a Stephen Sprouse Louis Vuitton car, a Coach car, and a Fendi car. Does he worry about their owners being sued for trademark infringement? "The way I see it, they weren’t copying anything. This wasn’t a Canal Street kind of industry, in that they were imitating something you’d find at a high-end store and then selling it," he says. "They definitely weren’t trying to mimic high fashion. They were translating it into their own thing, which compounded the weirdness of it."
His subjects were aware that they were breaking rules; in order to get them to agree to be photographed, Gispert had to promise them he'd never reveal their identities or locations. "The word counterfeit was never used. We never talked about the legality of it. But they’re aware. However they’re getting this material, I’m not sure, but it’s clearly a knockoff coming from China." That doesn't cheapen their dedication, though, in his eyes. "It's very involved and personal. The level of obsessiveness that goes into making this stuff — especially the cars — is really extreme, I would argue at the same level as that of an artist."
Luis Gispert's works will be on view at Mary Boone Gallery, 745 Fifth Ave., on September 8.