An unmistakable aesthetic stamp and an unparalleled eye for the camera, all enhanced by a good dollop of sexual tension: this is Androxx’s formula for success.
Since his debut (if you wanna find out more about his “beginnings”, check our first interview here) Androxx’s shots have gained widespread critical and public acclaim, leading him to work with some of the biggest names in the modelling game, including Sebastian Sauve and Caio Cesar. Two years after our last interview, the New York based visual artist with a penchant for Pop Art and haunting lyrics is back with a new, captivating series – Cult Hero – of which 1883 offers an exclusive preview. Named after a Robert Smith (The Cure) side project, Cult Hero draws on the idea that we all belong to a “cult” in one way or another.
1883 Arts Editor caught up with Androxx to talk fame, politics and religion, and to get the lowdown on his new body of work.
Hello, Androxx! Good to talk to you again. The last time we met, you were working on the series Poptopia, which was later showcased at Jadite Gallery in New York. What’s happened since then?
Well, first of all, I took a break. It always seems good to hit the “reset” button. Then shortly after our show closed, the Charlie Hebdo attacks happened. What a horror. Religion had really been on my mind – especially religion vs. spirituality – and the insanity of extremism in our modern age. There are some lighter themes going on in this series, too – but a couple of pieces were inspired by that incident.
Like Nodding Off? How did that piece come to be?
I was watching a conservative news show – sometimes you have to hear what the enemy is saying – and a wild-eyed woman was ranting about the Paris attack. She then called for the deportation of Muslims and went off into a tirade about God’s country (aka America). Just a load of bilious garbage. Soon after that, I was listening to the band Wavves. One of their lines – “God’s been nodding off” – stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave. The image of Peter Winkler in the “Kulture Or Death” t-shirt next to the lyric is meant to both provocative and ambiguous. I know what I wanted to say – but I think it will suggest different things to different mindsets.
Nodding Off is part of your new body of work, Cult Hero, which has as its premise the belief that we all belong to a “cult”. Can you explain?
The word “cult” has become sinister due to its association with religious fanaticism. But we all tend to surround ourselves with people who think the way we do. I know I have a varied group of friends and acquaintances, but, off the top of my head, I can say that most of my circle are liberals, aren’t very religious and share at least some of my tastes in music and art. That’s normal. And healthy. And in a sense, we’re a cult. But when the desire to be around like-minded people takes a turn – when it goes from – “it’s great to think like us” to “everyone should think like us” to “let’s make everyone think like us” – well, obviously that’s not good. That’s when megalomaniacs like Hitler or Trump smell opportunity and say whatever is necessary to achieve power.
On a less sinister level, there’s the idea of the “cult” level of fame. Not quite mainstream, but influential. Platforms like Instagram have allowed a lot of visual artists to reach like-minded pockets of people in every country in the world. A following can be gained in a way that was absolutely impossible a decade ago. And that’s a lovely thing.
You’ve achieved a cult level of fame in the past couple of years. Given your well-known desire for anonymity (Androxx has never posted a photo of his face), how do you handle that?
Well, in the grand tradition of Banksy and Sia (laughs), I find it liberating to hide my face and focus on my work. I do interact with friends and followers on social media – but there are periods when days can go by before I check in. For me, it’s healthy. And most of the people who contact me or comment on my work are terrific. Happily, I seem to attract a smart, interesting group.
Speaking of social media, I heard you’ve somehow run into Instagram’s censorship; can you tell us what happened?
Last month, we did some advance street promotion – wheatpasting a trio of images from the new series with faux, slightly battered magazine logos in place of the usual text you see in my work. We got an immediate and very positive response. One image – featuring model Jordan Torres and a version of the New York Times T Magazine logo – got pulled – several times – from Instagram. Photos much racier than this are all over IG, so it remains unclear as to why. One user who’s very into street art – @dustyrebel – actually posted the message he got from the mysterious IG powers-that-be after his post was removed. But the hubbub has actually helped spread interest in what we’re up to – so even though it’s vexing, it’s kind of great, in a way. Turning lemons into lemonade (laughs).
Image vs. reality – I know this is another theme that continues to resonate with you.
Yes – I’ve done several pieces that relate to it – I’ll Be Your Mirror is probably the best-known – but it’s something that I still explore. I think part of it comes from watching some of the subjects I’ve shot navigate the insane world of acting / modelling / auditioning. Once you really get to see behind that curtain, you don’t see “product” – movies, magazines, catalogs, ads – the same way. I was very fortunate to get to work with veteran Belgian model Geoffroy Jonckheere for this series. He’s best-known as the face of Polo – and when I first became aware of him, I knew I had to shoot him. There’s a depth there that can only come from having lived a little bit. He can speak volumes with just a look.
And finally, what does the future hold for you?
Well, Jacopo, since this started four years ago, I’ve never done any long-term planning. So far I’ve been lucky every step of the way – and it’s all been by instinct. I do know we’re going to release part of this new series online in May – and then probably take part in another gallery show in the fall. After that, who knows? Whatever it is, I promise it won’t be dull (laughs).
Androxx will release pieces from Cult Hero in May, 2016
Words by Jacopo Nuvolari @jacopo982