RJ Calabrese American, b. 1979

"Similar to the phrasal template word game Mad Libs, I create works that rely on playful manipulation and distortion; I act and react while negotiating between attraction and repulsion. Like the above example where I removed certain words from the brilliant painter Mark Rothko’s quote, meaning is suddenly lost or changed, and one’s desire to decipher the artist’s intention is replaced with their own meaning and context. The result is funny to me- especially when it’s off-putting. I feel like the perversion of context starts to reveal a basic need for the absurd. Perhaps this is the mental space that relieves us from the heaviness of the world.


I often include figures engaged in a mixture of activities at various points of defeat, often with humorous, eroticized, or foreboding undercurrents. Animals become fixtures, trophies, and other artifacts marked by domination. The use of playful colors and shapes attract the viewer while dismembered bodies and other displays of violence repulse them. " - RJ Calabrese