At first glance, it may seem as if the driver of this brand-new Maserati Levante SQ4 GranSport has collided with one of Miami Beach’s distinctive white walls. But this is not the case.
Rather, every one of the nearly 700 jumbled bricks surrounding the vehicle is a painstakingly produced piece of art, each individually hand-painted and uniquely marked by Philadelphia-based artist Joseph Leroux, who was commissioned by the auto company to conceive a work of art around the Maserati Levante during Art Basel Miami Beach. Earlier this week, the installation debuted at Pulse Miami, one of several art fairs taking place this week.
“The pattern that you’re seeing on the surface of the white bricks is each side being branded, one at a time,” explained Leroux, who variously applied a piping hot, custom-built branding iron to give each block its own look. “No two are exactly the same, but when you put them together they evoke an aura of distress.”
Prominently displayed at the entrance to the Pulse Miami art fair, the first-ever Maserati SUV, meanwhile, appears to champion over the pile of bricks beneath it, as though it were in action. The artist noted that the intended effect was, fittingly, to convey a sense of action, power, and mystery.
The Maserati installation is Leroux’s first collaboration with any automaker. But the same bricks have appeared before in different places and different assemblages, often in conjunction with the artist’s series of paintings, titled “The Bluffs.” To create them, Leroux fabricated almost 1,000 of the medium-density fiberwood blocks over a period of eight months, painted each one stark white, then branded them to superimpose an overall nostalgic, yet distressed look.
“I love the idea that as the [bricks piece] travels, it will never be the same thing twice,” Leroux said. “It will react to whatever its environment is.”
For the artist, the decision to use the bricks as his medium came naturally, and nods to an earlier time in his career. “I worked in construction for a long time, so I was thinking about somebody laying these bricks, all day every day, and then they become either walkways or buildings,” he said.
One benefit of the bricks is their versatility. “As I shift the piece, it can be built into numerous architectural components that are based on what space I’m in, or what object I’m going to show them with,” noted Leroux, who also runs Bertrand Productions, an up-and-coming contemporary art gallery in Philadelphia.
Leroux typically pairs the bricks with paintings or sculptures that feature similar line work. At Pulse, for instance, the artist has separately assembled another stack of the bricks inside the show. The pavers are piled underneath a painting of his titled The Bluffs: Peacock, which subtly depicts firefighters battling a car fire.
The artwork is based on a historic photograph from the 1960s that Leroux has digitally manipulated and processed to the point of obfuscation. “You’re not quite sure what’s going on in the image, but it’s ominous and confusing,” he said.
So far, Leroux said the bricks installation outside the show is helping to draw even more attention to the dazzling blue Maserati Levante, further noting the collective power of the installation’s building blocks. “[The brick is] this very simple object, but when you have enough of them, you can make something that’s greater than the sum of its parts,” said Leroux.
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