Flevian Demargy (Mambo) // "Humans After all " - Los Angeles based Artist
Flavien Demarigny is a French artist currently based in Los Angeles but has made a name for himself around the world both as Flavien Demarigny, but also as his alter ego, Mambo. Demarigny grew up in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia and has lived all over the world and has collaborated with globally known brands, but currently is showing his latest collection "Humans After All" at Mondrian Los Angeles through June 30, 2016. View photos from the opening reception here.
When did you start painting?
When I was 15. It was around 1985 so I was really into the New Wave era when it was graphic and colorful. When I was in Paris, it was super creative and inspiring there. I was very into funk music, new wave, didn’t know much about hip hop yet, and listened to a lot of jazz. Jazz is the genre that made me really understand music first. Jazz was a big inspiration in the beginning.
Which jazz musicians were you listening to?
I was listening to a lot of Fats Waller, Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, and all these guys. Then I started listening to New Orleans swing, bebop, then more stuff like funk, soul, etc.
Which visual artists were you most interested in when you started painting?
I loved Jean-Paul Goude at that time. He was doing the record sleeves for Grace Jones with cut-outs and photography. I was also into similar guys like Mondino, who were doing crazy, colorful, graphic, super-creative music videos and ads. It was really powerful. I was a big fan of the artwork of Kid Creole and The Coconuts and Joe Jackson (I can’t remember who was doing his illustrations but they were amazing). Illustrations, photography, and some movies like those from Pedro Almodovar at the time were super interesting. Almodovar is a Spanish director who pretty much created the avant garde after the dictatorship ended in Spain. In his movie Atame, he has red and blue in every single angle. That’s why I say he films like a painter. He made a whole movie about a subtle sado-masochist relationship and all for some reason with red and blue in it and it’s absolutely beautiful. Another movie, which is probably my favorite of his, is Matador. It’s also very sexual but this one is related to the bullfights. It’s all black and red. It’s about passion and includes many symbols of Spain; roses, flamenco, and the bullfight are utilized in a sexual way and are related to death and violence. It inspires me in the same way Roy Lichtenstein, Jean Dubuffet, and Prince do. Prince is a major inspiration because he created his own vocabulary and started to make variations and then developed it for the duration his life. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. When you hear a song from Prince, you know it’s him and that’s what I love. That’s what I’m trying to do with my “vocabulary” and its variations.
What’s the difference between the art you do as MAMBO and the art you create as Flavien?
If I could describe the art I do as Mambo in one word, it would be swing. It’s all about lines that connect each other. There’s a quest for harmony in the colors and the shapes, etc. In the Flavien paintings, it’s all about action, which is very different. It’s a repeated movement that could be very boring but I try to make it exceptionally unique and optic. It’s a very different way of speaking to the audience. It’s a different conversation.
With Mambo, are we looking at a code or language or is it your free movement?
It’s mostly free movement. When I’m painting, I don’t think too much because I want to keep it spontaneous and coming from the gut. Sometimes I write my dreams and sometimes in the dreams, I understand why I’m doing certain things in the painting and I understand it’s my subconscious. The good thing when you keep it spontaneous is that you don’t have much control about what it says -- it’s just happening.
Tell us about the collection at Mondrian.
I chose these pieces considering the setting of the Magic Box and how to give the audience a nice, short overview of my work. But I think it’s important to be there on the opening night. I’m always afraid it’s not enough work on display. I’m glad for the opening that we’ll have the videos so I’ll have the opportunity to show more of my art live. You will see videos of me drawing and painting, there will be a cartoon animation, and some live painting during the event. I really love that because I want people to feel connected to the work and the way it’s created.
Do you have your idea of what the live painting will be?
It will be spontaneous. What I need to figure out is the live music because it really helps me a lot. Most recently at Coachella and in Paris, I had live music/a DJ while I was painting. If they’re playing music that I like, it’s magical. I painted at Coachella two years ago during Laurent Garnier’s set in the Yuma Tent. We installed two windows on the sides of his booth and I was painting on both sides.
What drew you to Los Angeles?
Actually my wife! She works at Warner Brothers. It just happened and I love it. I was in Paris for quite a long time before this. We almost went to London, Rio de Janeiro, or Kyoto. We were ready to go anywhere – we just wanted to move and have a new experience but it’s good that we came here though for our family.
What do you think of the art scene in Los Angeles?
Well it’s exciting to see how it grows but it’s LA but it’s not New York. I think the most interesting part is the incredible amount of artists here which outnumbers the collections or galleries. There isn’t the variety or the quality that you can find in London, New York or Switzerland yet in terms of galleries… but it is growing. The Broad is bringing a lot and that’s real exciting. It’s not that their artists are new, but the works from these artists are really, really good. It’s a great collection and the building is fabulous. It makes the MOCA and LACMA look a little old and dusty now. I’m a big fan of their’s and the Norton Simon collection in Pasadena. They’re great quality.
What are some of the more respectable galleries in LA in your opinion?
I’ve seen really good stuff at Ace Gallery, both in Beverly Hills and on Wilshire. Honor Fraser, Roberts & Tilton, Cherry and Martin – they have good stuff. Blum & Poe sometimes too.
Do you think there will ever be anything like Art Basel here?
It’s tough. They’ve tried. Paris Photo was here and that got canceled. It was here for three years and they just weren’t selling. They were selling a lot of tickets to see the show but not enough of the art itself. There aren’t enough collectors. FIAC was supposed to come here too but they canceled. That says something.