No, you're not hallucinating... what you see is real.
photos courtesy of assumevividastrofocus
abra vana alucinete fogo #1, 2012 archival inkjet print on fine art rag paper
It was Christmastime and the year was 2011 when Barneys New York unveiled GAGA’S WORKSHOP, a holiday takeover of its entire 5,500-square foot men’s division on the fifth floor of their flagship Madison Avenue Store. At the time, pop superstar Lady Gaga was immersed in her “Born This Way” period- unapologetically trumpeting the message of embracing yourself as who you are, as God intended you to be, rather than conform to societal expectations. The choice of artist to execute the vision was spot-on, as this is precisely how Eli Sudbrack approaches his art. Through assume vivid astro focus, his partnership with French multimedia artist Christophe Hamaide-Pierson, Sudbrack has become one of world’s most sought-after artists, creating countless works and prominent exhibitions across the globe. AVAF was tasked with masterminding an elaborate fantasy of art installations, vivid colors and bold patterns—congruent with Lady Gaga’s outrageous aesthetic.
And they rocked it.
Lady Gaga at the entrance to Barneys
one of several works designed by avaf for Gaga's Workshop
The project was just one of many standout moments in Eli Sudbrack's career.
As a child growing up in Brazil, Eli didn’t yet realize that an artist was what he was, as Gaga would say, "born to be." His father was a dentist, poet, and literary critic. His mother was a banker and more conservative. “My father was my connection to art, but it was my mother who encouraged me to be more extroverted,” says Sudbrack.
When his father sadly passed away after a long illness, Eli and his mother moved from Sao Paolo to Rio de Janiero. He wanted to study cinema and become a movie director but was discouraged by the amount of time and money needed to achieve success in the industry. At university, he majored in communications, and in an elective photography class, found a mentor who taught him to use photography as an artistic language. He worked as an assistant teacher, and at age 28, fell in love with a New Yorker and decided to move to NYC. Setting his sights on becoming a web designer, he worked in “lousy” jobs throughout the 90s and still felt unsatisfied. “I just had this eagerness to express myself, to put out my thoughts and feelings,” says Sudbrack.
9/11 was the turning point - a tragedy that brought fear, but also drew people closer together because no one wanted to feel alone or isolated. “A certain artist movement was born of this,” says Sudbrack, recalling the artistic collaborations that started emerging. “I realized what I wanted to do with my life, and once I committed to it, it moved fast.”
Eli revisited the things he'd loved in his childhood: comic books, Marvel superheroes, 70s pop culture like The Brady Bunch and The Bionic Woman. He used the public library for inspiration and photocopied images that engaged him. With those elements he created his own “universes” and made wallpaper. “The wallpaper was a landscape of all that I was exposed to at the moment, combined with what I loved from the past,” he says. People started to notice.
When Eli heard about a project intended to enhance public spaces, he applied and was chosen to create a rollerskating dance rink in Central Park. “My method was to influence the viewer to be 100% free. That was the core of my thinking,” says the artist. His rink, a printed-on-vinyl kaleidoscope, attracted attention and soon the Faena Forum - a multi-disciplinary event space in Buenos Aires - invited Sudbrack to recreate it at their museum. He did it again at Art Basel Miami, and that’s when the renowned art collector Rosa de la Cruz discovered him.
Skate Rink art project with Central Park's Dance Skaters Association sponsored by The Public Art Fund and in conjunction with the 2004 Whitney Biennial, New York, USA
Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz Private Collection, Key Biscayne, USA
De la Cruz enlisted Sudbrack to craft a performance space that enveloped the whole second floor of her home. “My idea was to influence her to collect art from artists I admired, to expose her to something new,” he says. He used roller derby bumpers, sculpted triangles to be used as a “stage” and convinced De la Cruz to purchase an AIDS-themed piece to infuse his passion for the cause of the eradicating the disease. He put every element on wheels so the crowd could move them around and “activate” the space. It was electric. “It was only supposed to be there for a year but Rosa’s husband (Cuban-born American businessman Carlos de la Cruz) wouldn’t let her take it down.” The space is still opened to the public each year during Basel.
Another canvas was Wynwood - the rundown, working-class district that has since transformed into an urban art gallery of street murals. Paying homage to the many wholesale shoe warehouses that previously existed there, Sudbrack painted a colorful mural, an “acid flashback" to the flamboyant platform shoes of the 70s. “Color is a universal language for me,” says Sudbrack. “It’s a way to embrace the viewer. You can talk to anybody through color.”
archaeologist verifies acid flashbacks, 2010 The Wynwood Walls, Miami, USA
aquele vestígio assim…feérico, 2018 Casa Triângulo, São Paulo, one of Brazil's most important and respected contemporary art galleries. casatriangulo.com
pleasure vessel (Medusa Sundae), 2017 acrylic on photo rag print
Michael Kors released this limited edition t-shirt designed by Eli Sudbrack to help tackle world hunger, in honor of World Food Day, October 2016
avaf was one of 18 worldwide artists included in a massive project at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium, curated by Goldman Global Arts in partnership with the NFL, to celebrate Super Bowl LIV at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium in 2020
a very anxious feeling, 2007 neon sculpture
Those who've seen or own Eli Sudbrack and avaf's work will agree - it's totally trippy.
For more information about avaf, visit: assumevividastrofocus.com