In what has become a shining yearly tradition come Academy Awards week, the subversive Los Angeles street artist known as Plastic Jesus unveiled a new life-size Oscar statue yesterday, with a Kanye West head, striking a Jesus pose on Hollywood Boulevard. “There are a few celebrities we have made into god-like figures,” Plastic Jesus told Rolling Stone in a conversation about his latest project. “The domain in society and culture that they fill is far greater than their output. I think that’s happened to Kanye.”
Arms akimbo with nails through its palms, the gold-painted, muscular body made of a molded acrylic resin sports a Jesus-faced medallion on a chain around its neck. The statue’s lower midsection is covered in a loincloth, while the tippy-toed feet boast a pair of Yeezy brand shoes – that’s Kanye’s line. The expressionless Kanye head was molded by the Las Vegas-based horror artist Ginger, perhaps most famous for crafting the five nude Donald Trump statues that popped up in various U.S. cities last summer, part of a collaboration with the street-art collective Indecline. Atop the crafted Kanye is a crown of thorns that Plastic Jesus says he purchased “from the Holy Land” on eBay for $8.
Standing slightly over seven feet tall, including the platform with a sign reading “False Idol” in old English font, the art piece is the fourth installment in a series produced by the Polystyrene Prophet. Three years ago, shortly after the overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, Plastic Jesus erected an Oscar statue on Hollywood Boulevard with a tied-off left arm, injecting itself with drugs through a syringe. Then came the cocaine-sniffing Oscar statue on all fours in 2015, followed up by last year’s lady Oscar, in clear heels and pasties, gripping a stripper pole. With these public art pieces, Plastic Jesus says he’s trying to call attention to “the dark underbelly” of the entertainment industry. “We hear about celebrities going to rehab for the first or the 20th time, and they get their treatment,” Plastic Jesus says. “But there are others who can’t afford that. Let’s not forget about the lighting technicians that have cocaine habits or the makeup artists who are alcoholics or the writers who sit in dark rooms feeling depressed for days on end.”
With this year’s statue in particular, Plastic Jesus has chosen to examine “the cult of fame,” that is, how society perpetually places celebrities on a heavenly-high pedestal. “We almost forget they’re human,” Plastic Jesus says of our most famous citizens. “And when they show a human side, and have some kind of failure in their career or on a personal level, we look to crucify them.” The artist observed this behavior from the masses when West was hospitalized for mental health treatment late last fall. “We were looking for the next updates; we were looking for our pound of flesh,” Plastic Jesus says. “If we go back about eight years, Britney Spears was in the same domain as well.”
Last summer, in protest of Donald Trump’s proposed immigration policies, Plastic Jesus put up a miniature concrete wall around the President’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s since continued his onslaught on the reality TV mogul-turned-leader of the free world with protest march signs available for download on his website saying “Stop Making Stupid People
Famous President” and fixing phony “Trump Golden Shower Head” advertisements underneath actual for-sale shower heads in three different Home Depot stores. Lest anyone interpret this set of gold statues as anti-Academy Awards art, Plastic Jesus is quick to say, “The Oscars should not stop what they’re doing. The awards are a very worthy celebration of the skill, the talent and the commitment in the industry,” all of which Plastic Jesus admires.
Watched over by “two burly security guards,” according to a press release from the artist, the Kanye-Jesus-Oscar statue caused “no confrontations,” and was packed up after a few hours on display. The piece will reappear on Saturday, February 25th, as part of Plastic Jesus’ art show opening at the Gibson guitars headquarters on Sunset Boulevard – the former setting of the iconic Tower Records store. After that, Plastic Jesus says, we can look forward to more Donald Trump protest art to be “rolled out over the next few weeks.”
Commissioned by businessman Moishe Mana, the naked Donald Trump statues are back.