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Alex Da Corte in “Everyday Icons”

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In a darkened gallery, artist Alex Da Corte appears projected on the wall in Slow Graffiti (2017) as Boris Karloff, performing as both the actor himself and his 1931 role as Frankenstein’s monster, blurring the lines between actor and character. In his work, the artist never appears as himself, but rather, embodies the larger-than-life characters who influence or intrigue him: Mr. Rogers, the Wicked Witch of the West, Marcel Duchamp, and the Pink Panther are but a handful. Studying these characters who exist in worlds of fantasy and cartoon and integrating them into his own expansive artistic vision, Da Corte hopes to gain a deeper understanding of them and learn new ways of thinking.

Sculpture is an essential aspect of Da Corte’s practice, existing within his films as sets and props, alongside them as elements of a larger installation or framing, or as standalone objects. Early in his practice, Da Corte began to embrace sewing as a mode of making sculptures and finding his place, softening objects and ideas we experience as rigid. This sensibility runs throughout the artist’s playful approach to transforming monumental figures of our culture, making room for a “gentler, more tender way of understanding what it means to be human.” Inspired by the objects and images that populate our everyday life, the artist collects and recontextualizes these icons to give them new meanings, asking us to understand them differently in a world where logic is suspended or flipped upside down. 

Da Corte’s work pays homage to the objects and artist figures that have shaped his creative sensibility, whether through drawing inspiration from his grandmother’s sewing and integrating it into his own practice, recreating Claes Oldenburg’s Mouse Museum (1965) filled with his own sculptures and references, or seating a life-sized sculpture of Big Bird on one side of a sculpture referencing the work of Alexander Calder in As Long as the Sun Lasts (2022). In ROY G BIV (2022), Da Corte remixes, updates, and gives new meaning to each of the components he integrates into his performance, collaging elements of culture across multiple eras, locations, and media. Dressed as Rrose Sélavy, the alter-ego of artist Marcel Duchamp, the artist lip-syncs to a Stevie Wonder cover of “(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters, connecting these disparate works of art on his dream-like stage. Throughout his practice, Da Corte maintains a curious and devotional disposition toward the art and artists who have preceded him, always searching to reconsider the cultural objects that leave lasting marks on our visual world. 

More information and credits


Executive Producer: Tina Kukielski. Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Director & Producer: Ian Forster. Editor: Bryan Chang. Director of Photography: Jarred Alterman. 

Assistant Curator: Jurrell Lewis. Associate Producer: Andrea Chung. Design & Animation: Ryan Carl, Nikita Iziev. Composer: Andrew Orkin. Additional Music: Annie Clark, Austin Fisher. Additional Vidoe Editor: Addison Post. Additional Photography: Sean Hanley, John Marton, Simon Weyhe. Location Sound: Jeffrey Archer, Jackson Derbish, Marco Diallo.

Video Post-Production Services: Cut + Measure. Video Post-Production Producer: Alex Laviola. Colorist: Chris Ramey. Video Post-Production Coordinator: Catherine DiRosa. Online & Conform: David Gauff. Additional Animation: Andy Cahill. Audio Post-Production Services: Konsonant Post. Re-Recording Mixer & Sound Editor: Gisela Fullà-Silvestre. Assistant Editors: Ellen Askey, Michelle Hanks. Audio Description: 3Play Media. Station Relations De Shields Associates. Legal Counsel: Withersworldwide. Additional Curatorial Research: Susan Thompson. 

Additional Art21 Staff: Lauren Barnett, Hannah DeGarmo, Lolita Fierro, Joe Fusaro, Molaundo Jones, Emma Nordin, Anna Pruett, Jessica Svenson, Noor Tamari, Nora Wimmer. Interns: Stephanie Ades, Sekou Cherif, Yeon Cho, Michaela Esteban, Emma Flood, Renee Rienecker, James Santiago, Adam Varca, Dani Wieder.  

Artwork Courtesy: Alex Da Corte; Matthew Marks Gallery; Sadie Coles HQ; Brancusi ©Succession Brancusi – All rights reserved (ARS) 2023; Duchamp, © Association Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2023; Oldenburg, © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / ArtResource, NY. Archival Materials: Hans Hammarskiöld Heritage, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Special Thanks: The Art21 Board of Trustees, Danielle Brock, Carnegie Museum of Art, Americo Da Corte Jr., David Zwirner Gallery, Sasha Hecht, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Cara Monroe, Philadelphia Museum of Art, William Pym, Scott J. Ross, Maartje Oldenburg, Whitney Museum of Art.

Major underwriting for Season 11 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, Lambent Foundation, The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Toby Devan Lewis, Robert Lehman Foundation, and Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman.

Series Creators: Susan Dowling and Susan Sollins.

©2023 Art21, Inc.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Alex Da Corte

Alex Da Corte was born in Camden, New Jersey, in 1980 and lives and works in Philadelphia. The artist received his BFA from the University of the Arts in 2004, and an MFA from Yale University School of Art in 2010. Da Corte creates vibrant and immersive large-scale installations, including wall-based works, sculptures, and videos. Colorful and surreal, his work combines personal narrative, art-historical references, pop-culture characters, and the glossy aesthetics of commercial advertising to reveal the humor, absurdity, and psychological complexity of the images and stories that permeate our culture.

“If I think of some kind of icon as a flat symbol how do I give it depth?

Alex Da Corte

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