“Juxtaposing cartoon characters against backdrops of war and destruction is
Italian artist Max Papeschi’s idea of honest advertising. His work is provocative,
polarizing, and an interesting insight into how foreigners view American ideals.
He would suggest that he’s not anti-American, though. Rather anti-consumerist—his
portraits a social commentary on the globalization and pervasiveness of media.
Jailbreak (JB): Hey Max. How’s it going?
Max Papeschi (MP): Very good, thanks!
JB: Our readers might not know it but you’re Italian, right? Where do you live in Italy,
and one is the single thing that makes your country superior to ours?
MP: Yeah, I’m Italian. I live between Milan and Rome. I don’t believe that Italy is
a better country than America, but if I have to find something, I’d say the food.
The food here is the greatest.
JB: No questioning that. So, Max. How would you describe your work to someone who is blind?
MP: Great question. I think that many of my works can be described as an advertising
campaign coming from possible parallel realities. They’re conceived as actual
advertisements, just without the claim of a product, slogans, and of course the pay
I would receive upon completion. What they sell is rather the real value upon which
our society is based, without any sort of lie or hypocrisy hidden within them.
JB: Interesting. So when Jason, the owner of Jailbreak, first saw your work he said,
“this is the most profoundly American art I’ve seen all year.” Little did he know
that you’re not American! How do you respond to that?
MP: Well I was born and I live in a civilized country, which is part of a globalized
system. Music, books, movies, etc., are the same. The images and symbols and encouragement
that I’ve absorbed since I was a child are really similar to those attained by
any guy born in the U.S.A. or any other Anglo-Saxon or European country.
JB: Ok, so let’s talk about your work a little bit more. In some images
you have Auschwitz and Ronald McDonald; the Atomic Bomb and Mickey and
Minnie Mouse; Sylvester the Cat blowing up Disneyland, and “Nazi Fucking Mouse”
(above)—where perhaps one of the most pervasive American symbols is dressed
up like a Nazi. I guess my question here would be why?
MP: Actually, my art is not a criticism against American culture, but
rather towards the globalized occidental communications system. It is
simply a coincidence that most of the icons used are American ones.
JB: That being said, it is quite provocative work, so I wonder if anyone
has physically or verbally attacked you because of something you made?
MP: Verbally yes, physically no. But I think it could happen. Maybe some
pacifist will hit me. Who knows? People are strange.
JB: (Laughing) Well let’s hope not! Another recurring theme in your work is hyper-violence.
What is it that draws to such a morbid subject matter?
MP: I think it’s because of the images of violence that I’ve absorbed since I was a
child by way of television, movies and comic books. Also, as you know, we live in
a really rude society so that comes through in my work.
JB: No disputing that. What are you current projects, and will we see a show in the U.S.
MP: I have many personal exhibits in Italy in 2010, but I would like very much to show
my work in the U.S. I hope that’s possible soon. I would like to do a little tour from
coast to coast—New York to Los Angeles and pass through other places in your country.
We’ll see if it will be possible to organize something.
JB: Let us know if we can be of any help, we’d love to see a show on our soil. So are you
blessed to have art as your full-time job or is it simply a side gig?
MP: I have the lucky and unlucky opportunity to do it full time.
JB: Alright, Max. Last question. Assuming you’re listening to music while responding to
this interview, what is it?
MP: In general I listen to classical music when I work because it pumps my creative juices.
At the moment I’m listening to Mozart’s Requiem.
JB: Not at all what I would’ve expected. Thanks for your time, Max!
It has been a pleasure. Take care.
MP: Thanks, you too. I hope to see you one day!”