The work of New York artist Richard Dupont has appeared in exhibitions from Europe to Seoul, Korea and the most prestigious Manhattan galleries and museums including the Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney. He is an accomplished sculptor, painter and sketch artist who often uses digital technology to explore new ways of considering art and the human body. TSD talked with Dupont about contemporary art, his Delaware roots, and his love for pork roll sandwiches.
TOWN SQUARE DELAWARE: So … du Pont, … that names sounds vaguely familiar. You don’t by chance have any local Delaware connections?
RICHARD DUPONT: I lived in Delaware from age two until age seven. My father, Richard duPont, has lived there his whole life. Growing up, he would take my brother and I over to visit Andy and Jamie Wyeth. He had grown up with Jamie and had taken drawing lessons from Andy. Andy had encouraged him to become more involved with art and to study more formally under his guidance, but my father realized early on that he didn’t have the temperament for it and decided instead to become a pilot in the Air Force. One of my vivid memories of that period was going over to Jamie Wyeth’s studio one day and he was in the midst of painting the portrait of a very large and heavily muscled bodybuilder who was sitting for him in a Speedo. It was the young Arnold Schwarzenegger.
TSD: Yet despite that background, you don’t do a lot of “Brandywine School”-rolling-hills- type stuff. Do you ever have the urge to paint an autumn meadow or rustic barn?
TSD: Your critically-acclaimed exhibit “Terminal Stage,” involved you getting a full-body scan at an Ohio Air Force base and then making distorted models, or images of yourself, au natural. What inspired that project and what have you done with all those funky naked Richard Duponts?
RD: In 2007, I was approached by The Lever House Art Collection to do a site specific commission for their collection. They commission three or four artists a year to create a major installation for the lobby space of The Lever House, the landmark first international-style glass and steel building on Park Avenue. The building was completed in 1952 and also has a large sculpture garden designed by the great modern sculptor Isamu Noguchi. It’s the perfect setting for sculpture – particularly sculpture with an interest in engaging the public. My interest in exploring the rapidly dissolving membrane between private space and public space — something that seems to be accelerating on a daily basis — led me to make “Terminal Stage.” The Lever House Collection owns all the installations and will be organizing a touring museum exhibition of all them which will travel to various international museums.
TSD: Although you may not paint a lot of barns, your work is actually quite grounded in realism; is it fair to say the modern art world is becoming more receptive to interpretive works vs. a decades-long obsession with the abstract?
RD: Since the 60’s, representation has been making a serious comeback. Of course this has largely been representation vis a vis photography and pop culture. The idea that art should reflect – and make comment on – the time in which it was made is important. Interestingly, there has been a major shift over the past ten years back to traditional easel painting and old master technique. I think it’s a reaction to the digital tsunami engulfing all of us. I’m very interested in this shift out of photography and into digital culture and how it is effecting our perception and our memory.
TSD: Two part question: First, what artists most inspired you as a student and young aspiring artist, and two, who are the contemporary artists you most admire and why?
RD: I’m most interested in the artists that emerged in the 1960s and 70s that tried to move art out and away from the gallery setting into the larger setting of the social landscape. Robert Smithson, Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman, Chris Burden, Dieter Roth, Paul McCarthy. I’ve always loved Sigmar Polke- who died this year.
TSD: Follow-up: how and when did you decide to pursue a career as a full-time, working artist?
RD: Just this morning, but I could change my mind.
TSD: The cost of living in NYC is famously outrageous. Can NYC – and lower-Manhattan in particular – remain the center of the art world if it is simply too expensive to attract starving artists?
RD: It’s no longer the center, but New York feels more alive right now than it has in years. Artists find a way to make it here. Staying is the hard part.
TSD: What are your favorite haunts when you are back in the First State?
RD: Anyplace with a pork roll sandwich.
TSD: When is the Richard Dupont show at the Delaware Art Museum?
RD: Soon, I hope.