“SUPERLUMINAL” by Marcus De Paula.

Posted by Stefan Henry on

1.) Where are you from and how does this affect your work?
Marcus : I am a first generation Brazilian-American, I was born in California and grew up in the Washington D.C. suburb of Bethesda, Maryland. I’ve always struggled with identity and as part of my art practice have been reconnecting with my Brazilian heritage. This research has helped me understand the historical context of the architecture and art I saw growing up when visiting my family in Brazil. Ironically the Brutalist buildings I used to think were so ugly, cold, and ominous as a child are now a central style of forms I incorporate into my sculpture

2.) When did you begin to practice sculpture?

Marcus: Where I am today is a triangulation of the various prior chapters of my life and careers. Being a full-time artist is the third distinct career chapter. The first was working as a lighting designer for theater productions, live events, and even on tour with the indie-rock band Ra Ra Riot. The second was functionally non-artistic, where I went to business school for an MBA and subsequently worked as a management consultant for entertainment industry clients. This third chapter, in many ways, is my response to the prior two, and a mechanism of self healing from the intensity and artistic void of the prior.
My current work centers on questioning how we spend our time and what will be left of us, and challenging myself to create pieces that have a real materiality to them which has a figurative weight of longevity.


3.) What does your work aim to say?

Marcus: As celestial-inspired relics, my work seeks to call attention to civilizational fragility and have us question what will be left of us, to think about the things we create and what our legacy will be far into the future. Too much of our daily activity is to produce disposable work. I had been designing theater sets and immersive experiences for events that—despite an incredible level of detail, investment, and care—end up in the dumpster after their short use. I hope that engaging with my work, designs that recall the future, made from materials that last decades or even millennia, makes the viewer reconsider how they spend their time.


4.) What/who are you most influenced by ?

Marcus: In how my aesthetic and body of work has developed so far, I have been inspired the most by the visual design of classic sci-fi cinema (Stanley Kubrick) and contemporary digital artists (Stuart Lippincott), monolithic forms of John McCracken, and narratively speaking the sense of civilizational fragility has been seeded by my father’s career at NASA. I feel my forms are further inspired by Brutalism, which I had been exposed to at an early age while spending time in my parent’s native Brazil, seeing architecture from João Filgueiras, Roberto Burle Marx, and Oscar Niemeyer.

I’ve also been inspired by material research and discovery from early resin artists De Wain Valentine and Fred Eversley.

5.) What does your creative process consist of ?

Marcus: I could have never imagined last year the pieces I have created recently, and even though I have a sketchbook full of ideas, I tend to also be influenced by what makes sense to make in the immediate moment ahead - sometimes influenced by material availability, but also sometimes by creative excitement about a certain form.



6.) How do you know when a piece is finished ?

Marcus: While I aspire to aesthetic perfection, often teased by computer generated renderings, it’s practically impossible because of realities of the material, tools at hand, expertise in the moment, etc. I end up having to draw the line when it becomes evident that further work on a piece threatens to, or actually begins to cause more damage than getting closer to “perfection”. Practically speaking, there is a point in polishing for example, where I can generate more scratches in the process of trying to remove existing ones.


7.) How has your style evolved over time ?

Marcus: I’ve been forced to constantly try new materials because of the supply chain challenges and complications the pandemic created during the last year. My first sculpture series was in alabaster. Just as the pandemic emerged I was waiting on a new shipment in the similar dimensions to what I had been working with. That shipment never showed, and I had to move on.
Staying with family in Maine during the first few months of the pandemic I sought out what materials could be sourced nearby. This included granite - which ended up being substantially harder and quite different to shape than alabaster- and resin, used by local boat makers - which I spent months studying and prototyping formulations to cast the shapes I was interested in.
Our travels continued as we left Maine and drove west, living for a few months in Utah and California, where I worked with lava rock I found along the way.
Stylistically I’ve become much more open to allowing for these chance influences of material that push me more towards including more organic and natural features of the stone in the final design.


8.) Do you have any other creative practices aside from sculpting?

Marcus: I also practice photography, particularly landscape and aerial (by drone). I’ve found this to be an important complement to my sculpting practice to help share the stories of my influences.

9.) What experience has been the most important in developing the direction of your work?

Marcus: I’ve been working with light since my childhood collection of flashlights. My lego structures were emblazoned with blinking light and snaking wires (which I’ve since become tidier about). In high school I taught myself about theatrical and entertainment lighting and that led to my professional lighting work thereafter. I was fortunate to work with theatrical directors and musicians that appreciated my ambitious and non-conventional approach to lighting.
While working in management consulting I would spend my nights taking Neon glass classes as a creative escape. Most of those resulting pieces sat on a shelf as I felt they weren’t complete as the sculptural forms I sought. I didn’t know how to finish them until years later when my friend took me to a stone supply and it immediately clicked that I wanted to combine the two mediums into single sculptural forms.
As now it has been a while working with light, I’m able to better articulate why I like working with it, and why I like seeing how an audience reacts. I’m intrigued by the biological attraction to light and how even in our place of technological advancement we still love to gather around a campfire. While I craft sculpture, I like to think how these pieces will serve the place of the campfire whether in a home, gathering place, or even in a gallery. With this in mind, a few of my pieces have no back, with their wiring run from the bottom, they can be placed for viewing in the round, serving the role of that campfire.

10.) You recently had your debut solo show " SUPERLUMINAL" . Can you tell me more about the meaning behind the title and this particular body of work?

Marcus: Superluminal means faster than the speed of light, a concept and capability that opens up exciting and interesting conversations in the possibilities of space exploration and Einstein's theory of relativity.
The works draw inspiration from my father, a Brazil-born NASA engineer, and examines relative notions of time across our lives, source materials of the works, and the cosmos.
Each sculpture is named after a moon of Saturn, as an imagined relic in an alternate reality where they are the only remnants of a lost world. I use this narrative to engender a discussion of humanity’s fragility and legacy. Creating many of these works during the pandemic is an inescapable context when as a whole planet we had a reckoning with our existence.

The use of volcanic rock, granite, and alabaster - some as old as one billion years - forces an acknowledgment of the age and longevity of these materials in perspective with humans' time on earth.

11.) I also recently discovered that you curate a functional art and design exhibition titled "Current Show" , can you tell me more about it ?

Marcus: CURRENT came about last fall when I moved to DUMBO after spending a year on the road. I wanted to build community with other artists nearby as well as participate in New York Design week in a context that was fitting for the work. Also, at this point as an unknown emerging designer, I knew a group show would be more worthwhile for a gallerist or designer to visit than anything I did solo. The name plays off the location of DUMBO, along the East River, and the works as a representation of contemporary functional art, a more recent acknowledgement of works that are in the gradient between fine art and contemporary design. My curation focuses on works made by Designer-Fabricators and one-of-a-kind pieces, which is to say everyone makes their own work (a bit more of a rarity in the functional design world).
Naturally, as my ambition tends to run away with things, the exhibition had thirteen Brooklyn-based artists and designers in the fall in over 1500 square feet, receiving 500 visitors and over 7 million online impressions from all the press the exhibition received. We were even nominated and honored as a finalist for Best Exhibition by Interior Design Magazine. With that success we were asked to reprise the exhibition this spring for NYCxDesign’s 10th anniversary. The exhibition this May ran for 3 weeks with seventeen artists and designers.

12.) Are you working on anything currently ?

Marcus: I’m working on scaling up my work, both for interiors (gallery presentation and design) as well as for exterior public sculpture. I’m hoping to finish and present a work at Burning Man this fall.

13.) Where can we find more of your work?

Marcus: The best place to keep an eye on what I am working on is my instagram @marcus_vdepaula. I share a lot of in-progress video and photography. I’m also happy to host anyone at my studio in DUMBO, just shoot me a note and we’ll set it up!


** “Superluminal” is currently on display at the Davidson Gallery ( 521 West 26th St. New York, N.Y 10001 ) until June 11 ! Be sure to check it out if you’re in surrounding areas !