Interview // Backstory Magazine // 2012

“Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em”

ARTISTS DISCUSS THEIR PIECES FROM AN UNDEAD EXHIBIT IN NEW YORK

BY GERMAIN LUSSIER

A

PRIL HAS SHOWERS, JULY FIREWORKS, November turkeys and December presents. For October, the iconography is pumpkins and ghouls. But who’d want to see an art show about pumpkins?

“Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Zombie Show,” at the new Bottleneck Gallery in Brooklyn, attempts to rill a pop-art niche that’s sorely lacking in New York, as co-owner and curator Joseph Bouganim decided the space’s second show should be familiar but over the top.

“My goal was for the artists to go crazy,” he says. “I didn’t give them limits. If they wanted to zombify pop-culture characters, then have fun. Or if they wanted to go a serious route and put emotion behind zombies, please do. The end result was this incredible show of work, and I’m nothing but insanely proud of each artist that participated.” Four pieces in particular encompass the scope and skill of work in the show, and here we delve into the artists’ monstrous inspirations.

Everyone has a home, even a zombie. That was the initial spark behind Vincent Carrozza’s digital painting “Homecoming,” wherein a zombie instinctually—and possibly unbeknownst to himself—returns home to find a tree revealing the disturbing fate of his family.

Carrozza says his influences ranged from Night of the Living Dead to The Walking Dead and even Max Brooks’ novel World War Z. Yet while painting, it wasn’t the zombie or the abandoned house that created the most unease. “The tree was inspired by an article I read discussing the increased rate of farmer suicides due to the economy, failing crops and the pressure to lower prices,” he says. “I was worried that it would be seen as flippant and wrong to use the article as inspiration for something such as a zombie pic, but I went ahead anyway.”

That kind of risktaking is precisely why the painting made it into the show. After discussing the new gallery with some friends and hearing about the zombie theme, Carrozza, who lives in Australia, contacted Bouganim out of the blue, despite never having made an unsolicited contact before. The curator re-sponded immediately. “When we first posted Vincent’s work, the impression everyone had was exactly what I had—and that was, ‘Wow,— he says. “It’s such an emotional piece.”

But what truly differentiates “Homecoming” from the typical zombie fare is that, at first glance, you can’t even tell its true intentions. Its style fits in almost any art gallery across the world. “I didn’t want it to be seen immediately as a garish zombie pie,” Carrozza says. “I wanted that aha moment as the viewer realizes what it’s actually about.”