“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porches, I must make amends,” begins the 1970 lonely blues song by the self-described “middle-class white chick” turned counter-cultural legend Janis Joplin. Mercedes Benz wobbles between a state of the satire of consumerist ideals Joplin and her peers rallied against, while ultimately revealing the ways in which the desire for validation and excess lurked beneath the surface of pop culture’s idealism.
Danny First draws his inspiration for a new series of sculptures from Joplin’s a cappella cult classic, echoing Joplin’s refrain over four decades later. First’s series of benches, made out of recycled and salvaged material, substitute the names of luxury cars and the color TV that Joplin longed for with the names of subcultural gurus turned luxury-brand art stars. Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Warhol? Baldessarri? Basquiat? Grotjahan?
The artist uses his signature humor, bright pop colors and the lure of the utilitarian object to draw the viewer in. By listing the names of contemporary art’s forefathers across the benches, First asks us to consider how our desires as cultural consumers and producers are constructed by art historical discourse, market, and the cult of celebrity.
Danny First lives and works in Los Angeles.