A native of California, Philip Pirolo left his home in Joshua Tree to study music composition at the University of Southern California and fine art painting at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. After graduating, Pirolo worked at a small design studio and later became the creative director of the influential arts and photography journal Provocateur, for which he won many design awards. The magazine’s aesthetic and layout mirrored his artistic sensibility and reflected his interest in the male form, subversive artwork, and underrepresented artistic visions and explorations.
Through photography, sculpture, and painting, Pirolo’s work explores issues of sexual identity, social norms, and ways in which surface, beauty, and form become potent metaphors for control, desire, and loss. He uses the body and elements of nature as instruments of formal expression and seduction to articulate not only our fragile and temporal existence but also the visceral nature of being.
Pirolo recently exhibited at the Couturier Gallery, his work is currently featured at the Melrose Project, and he is exhibiting at the gallery Antebellum in Hollywood in a show that opens February 26.
The Advocate: Why are you an artist?
Philip Pirolo: I think all art is about exploration, wonder and finding meaning. I love the quest.
What catches your eye?
A unique hair pattern, a fold of skin, life’s fleshy taboos.
Tell us about your process or techniques.
When I am shooting photography, I move around a subject, looking for the vibrating line between sweetness and subversion, or between reserve and exuberance. I think that’s also the balance I am working for in my sculptural work.
How do you choose your subjects?
It’s not easy for me, but sometimes I approach complete strangers if I find something interesting about them.
How do you describe your work?
I think the work has always been about what is allowed and what is forbidden, what’s covered and what is revealed, and the tension between them.
What makes a good photograph or artwork to you?
The best work moves or challenges you to see things in a different way.
What artists do you take inspiration from, and why?
One of the first artists to make a strong impression on me was Kandinsky. He was a musician and gave his paintings titles like Improvisation or Composition; I related to the musical aspect of the work.
I love the painting of Eakins and Richter, the design and architecture of Le Corbusier, Saarinen, and Charles and Ray Eames. Jean Arp is amazing — every line of his sculpture is dripping with sensuality.