This week’s March 18, 2022 Dan’s Papers cover art was created by the “King of Pop Art” himself, Nelson De La Nuez. Here, he discusses the origins of his unique brand, the themes he explores in his artwork and his greatest artistic accomplishment.
What inspired you to paint “High Maintenance (Oh Pool Boy)” and what themes did you set out to explore with this piece?
This is one of many pieces in my “Material Girl” series, which shows my strong, outspoken female characters. They all either have or aspire to a certain luxury lifestyle.
They are not spoiled; they just know what they want and are enjoying life to its fullest. It’s created in a fun tongue-in-cheek style, but I empower them to speak loudly and not be afraid to get what they want in life — whether it’s the pool boy’s assistance, Champagne, a fabulous career, designer shoes or flying first class — everything and anything is attainable. These are modern women.
Besides that, “High Maintenance” is a great summer piece that reminds people of that one great summer day they never forgot. It epitomizes summertime with the theme, colors, vibe.
How was this piece created?
It starts out with an idea, and then I come up with the fun tongue-in-cheek thought bubble that will tie it all together. The writing is very important. Visually, I create a drawing for the central character(s) and then, depending on each piece, I will tell the narrative in the background with a collage I create that includes whatever I need to tell the story.
My work is mixed media, just depends on what the particular piece calls for and my mood. Some pieces are very detailed, and others are better kept simple. I utilize media ranging from acrylics, oil pastels to spray paint, et cetera on canvas, paper and wood.
How did you develop your iconic brand of pop art?
After people started seeing my art on a wide scale in well-known galleries, especially my DTR Modern galleries, which I’ve had tremendous success with and a great relationship, they started to recognize my work — the specific thought bubbles, my women, the Wall Street art, the art I specifically design on the sides of my canvases. As a result, my art became very much in demand and I am constantly creating, trying to keep up. No complaints. I am always trying to change things up a bit though, asking myself what can I do next that’s different.
My style of art — with its fun, yet sophisticated commentaries on modern society — has led prestigious brands, celebrities and corporate collections to reach out and have me design for their brands using my name to create my own collections for them ranging from watches to travel goods, fashion and home décor. This has then led to my art being seen in new forums, such as large department stores (Neiman Marcus, Saks, Nordstrom), and also Delta Air Lines private corporate collections features my work at their various Sky Club VIP lounges throughout the country, for example. My art became word of mouth among the entertainment industry, as well, and one thing led to another. I have designed custom pieces for brands, for hotels, nightclubs, et cetera. Regardless who I design for, I always have creative control in how my art will look on the product or final branding.
How did your title as “King of Pop Art” originate and what does it mean to you today?
I wouldn’t call it a “title” — it is my brand. Don’t confuse that. I didn’t name myself that, but it’s actually a great story that involves Michael Jackson. It was in the spring of 2009 when I met Michael, and he was in awe of my art, like a kid in a candy store. He bought three large pieces in about four minutes before the chaos of his life ensued — news crews, press, cameras turned on to film and he fled.
We later discussed him coming to my studio, and they asked if I’d close it down for him and his kids. It was a future plan that I looked forward to. But who knew he would be dead shortly after I delivered all of the art?
The media and newspapers came up with their own headlines, “King of Pop Buys Art from King of Pop Art.” It caught on, and I trademarked it for my brand name. I am not a narcissist, and I don’t feel it’s something I have to “live up to.”
It’s like any creative person who has a brand name persona — singers, rappers, designers, Madonna, 50 Cent, Meatloaf, Snoop Dogg — these are obviously not their real names, these are brands they represent. They just happen to be the brand; it’s how the creative industry works, especially when you have other products/brands connected to you.
It is my legal trademark, my website, my social media handles and what I use for brands that I develop partnerships with. Some fans and collectors seem to really like it, and I just take it all in jest.
What artistic accomplishment or accolade are you most proud of?
I am very proud to have been involved in some great partnerships and projects such as designing my own collection of “Bubble” watches for Swiss watch (company) Corum and being asked by Warner Bros. to create art for the iconic Wizard of Oz film’s 70th anniversary.
Ultimately though, I’d have to say I am most proud of what I have accomplished — that I came to the U.S. from Cuba at age 7 with nothing, from a very humbled place and have risen to the success that I am at now; the fact that I am able to make a great living doing what I love every single day. I don’t take it for granted. I get to live my passion.
What do you find most fulfilling or rewarding about being an artist?
Getting to create something that didn’t exist before, and I have seen firsthand how my art has and can touch people’s lives. That is a great feeling.
To see more of Nelson De La Nuez’s works, inquire about purchasing pieces and stay up to date on upcoming exhibitions and events, visit dtrmodern.com.