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Stephen D'Onofrio | An Interview

Today we introduce recent MFA graduate, Stephen D'Onofrio. His large scale work is both bold and full of energy, drawing influence from the Pop Art movement. Exploring the visual language that accompanies mainstream consumer design markets, D’Onofrio’s bright, playful works reconsider painting as ornament, incorporating ‘stock objects’ and familiar design patterns into his work.

Read our interview with him below, and explore his collection of works. 

Describe your work in three words:

Defective Ikea flowers.


Tell us about the body of work launching on Tappan?

The work I am launching right now with Tappan is a portion of the work I’ve been making over the past year. These pieces poke at mainstream consumer design markets, but always remains self aware of the tropes they are portraying.


What is your creation process like, how are you conceptualizing and thinking about these pieces?

My creation process happens pretty fluidly at this point. I normally come across a couple things a day that i’ll either take photos of or write down.  After Like a week or so I’ll revisit those images and thoughts, usually by then most of them feel stupid but a couple will stay put. I just keep doing this and if after like a month or so if an idea or image has stayed with me i’ll sit down and begin to figure out how I want to execute it in a more calculated manner. 

 What's one thing you still have from your childhood?

My distaste for cilantro.


Do you remember the first piece you created which you felt was a “work of art,” and what was it?

When I was a teenager I made my first, and probably my last  “work of art” it was a large multilayer stencil. That idea got a little blurry as I got older.


Do you have a favorite quote, or a phrase you think about often?

Not really, but:

"The plastic artist may or may not be concerned with presenting a superficial appearance of reality, but he is always concerned with the presentation - if not the representation - of the plastic values of reality." -Hans Hofmann


Regarding your method of making, is it a case of the material or method dictating the idea of the other way around?

It would be the other way around, the idea always ends up dictating the method and the material.

Do you remember the first time a work of art affected you? The last time…?

The plethora of street art that accompanied the trip from Jersey to NYC had an early and lasting affect on me, I made that trip often. Most recently, Carmen Herrera at the Whitney was great. Not only because I am a sucker for almost anything clean flat and saturated, but the context in when most of her paintings where being made and her place in history really got my mind going.


What is the primary question art is addressing today?

I don’t think there is a primary one.


What artist has given you the best advice? What was it?

In regards to establishing a studio practice. Diego Leclery told me to ask a young doctor or lawyer what their weekly work schedule was like, and then to clock in at least the same amount of hours they put in.

How do you move past a creative block when you run out of ideas?

Fortunately, I don’t run into that very often. It’s more about just choosing which ideas will get executed.


Other than the genre you work in; what other types of art do you most enjoy

Cooking, the creativeness of a talented chef never ceases to amaze me. 


How would you define the role social media plays in art? Art making? Art promoting?

This is something I think about often, and I’m still try to navigate my relationship with social media. I’ve been reluctant in the past because it felt very cheap and cold to me, but I have turned a corner so to say, and now use it as an archiving tool and for promotion.  @stephenadonofrio.

An art collection celebrates the social & political world a collector wants to inhabit. Do  you personally collect, and if so what and why?

Cat photographs. I’ve housed over 200 cats in the past couple years through a foster program in Chicago, as a result I have more cat photographs than any one person should ever have.


What would be in your ideal art collection? Price aside, is there a particular art object you would like to possess?

Not necessarily art objects, but a large green house where I can collect exotic and beautiful plants and flowers would be nice.


Who are some of the best artists working today that you look to for inspiration or just admiration?

The Chicago Imagists, not all of them are still with us, but they’re certainly my MVP.  I always end up leaning on them at least a little bit when I am art making. 

What one life experience has made who you are/ made you a more creative person?

Six years at art school absolutely brainwashed me for the better.


How has technology affected your life as an artist?

Yes absolutely. I rarely even touch my physical sketch book anymore, I can do all my sketching on my phone and computer now and it takes less time.


Do you have a particular philosophy on life?

Optimistic nihilism.


Explore Stephen's Collection