Jersey City resident Robert Piersanti returns to the Frozen Monkey Café in Hoboken for a solo show of his latest collection of pop art. The exhibit, titled Pop Art, features a colorful array of his signature acrylic portraits of local characters who caught Piersanti’s eye. The show with 21 new works of art will be up until June 1.
From illustrator to graphic artist
Long before Piersanti was putting his colorful world to canvas, he worked in the highly competitive field of editorial illustration. His designs were published in magazines including Biography, New York Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, New York Press, and The New Yorker. Yet after the events of Sept. 11, he gave up his job illustrating and was motivated to focus on his own work.
Just a year later, he began to show his work at solo shows around Hudson County, displaying work at Maxwell’s, LITM, BAMA Galleries, the Frozen Monkey Café, the artist studio tours in Hoboken and at other shows in Manhattan. In 2006, his work gained critical notice when New Jersey Monthly magazine named Piersanti in their “Best-of Issue,” comparing his style to Andy Warhol.
Yet while Warhol was made famous by his pop art of Marilynn Monroe and Campbell’s soup, Piersanti’s work delves deeper tapping into dreams of childhood like summer nights on the boardwalk and games of pretend. The colorful images of space girls, mermaids, or pirates, remind one of the giddy days of creating a whole world out of the imagination.
Draws from life
Piersanti works from life – particularly his own recollections of childhood, and his always-watchful eye looking to capture his next subject.
According to Piersanti, his wife Jill Armus, who is an art director, has provided him with plenty of feedback and inspiration over the years. “It’s kind of a challenge having an art director as a wife,” said Piersanti, “yet it’s great to have that second eye for my work. She sees some of the best art from around the world. It’s good to have constructive criticism.”
Another muse for him is his 9-year-old daughter Gina, who takes after him with a love of painting. According to Piersanti, he paints at least one portrait of Gina a year and she often accompanies him to show openings.
Since moving to Hudson County over 15 years ago, he has painted many locals like barmaids or even strangers walking down the street. Piersanti said that he has stopped people coming off the PATH.
“The variety [of people] is good in Hudson County and New York,” said Piersanti. “It really makes for a good palette of subject matter.”
Many different types have made it onto the canvas including sideshow people, snake charmers, and tattooed ladies that the artist has met at Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade and at tattoo shows.
According to Piersanti, almost anyone could be a potential subject, yet he gravitates towards those with a certain spark. “Someone with a good self-image stands out or if they have a good inner light,” said Piersanti. “The people who carry themselves with a certain confidence. They are easy to spot.”
According to Piersanti, he has made a habit out of carrying a camera with him in order to capture those hidden moments that might not come again. He said that the camera documents the history of his day.
“It makes for a magic moment,” said Piersanti, “If I wasn’t there doing this – it wouldn’t happen.”
Once he has found a new subject, he will spend about four hours taking at over 200 digital pictures as an idea session for what will go on the canvas. Sometimes he will use more than one snapshot and work it into a composite. Then he works up thumbnail sketches of the person before moving onto the canvas.
Piersanti’s signature style is a bold use of colors (usually primary) balanced with black.
“Yellow and red work great because they pop,” said Piersanti. “A powerful color next to black really creates electricity.”
While the ever-modest Piersanti attributes color as the source of the spark in his work, his real skill lies in his ability to create vivid characters that seemed drenched with emotion. When one views his works, you can’t help to feel a little of the essence of his subject – like the dreamy-eyed dancer blowing bubbles, a slightly melancholy barmaid, and a saucy mermaid with a secret smile.
Although he believes he has found his voice in his art, he isn’t prone to rest on past success. Piersanti spends six days a week in his studio in Hoboken creating new work.
“To be able to get up everyday and do what I love to do – that’s a real blessing,” said Piersanti.
Piersanti’s Pop Art exhibit will be on display until June 1 at the Frozen Monkey Café in Hoboken. In addition, he will display work at a group show with Rock Soup in May in Jersey City. For more information about the shows, visit: www.piersantistudios.com.
Additional reporting by Sara Schultzer.
Robert Piersanti’s solo exhibit of pop art is on display at the Frozen Monkey Café, 526 Washington Street, in Hoboken until June 1. For more information, visit: www.frozenmonkeycafe.com.
Comments on this piece can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.