Artist Interview: Salão Coboi

Salão Coboi is not a singular artist like you’d assume from the sound of the name, but rather a collective of individuals based in Portugal. They hit major attention on the blogosphere in 2011 when they did a project named Generation H, in which they sculpted figures wearing clothes modeled after actual items by haute couture houses like Prada, Alexander Wang, and Junya Watanabe. And there’s just something charmingly unique and European about the characters Salão Coboi create, which really makes me feel the same positive energy I get whenever I look at the wonderful designs of The Yellow Submarine and Wallace & Gromit. However, Salão Coboi have taken that kind of work to the next level by making it not just for children, but also adults as well. Beautiful/Decay featured the work of Salão Coboi a lift bit ago HERE.

 

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What artists are in the Salão Coboi collective?

My name is Apolinário. I’m a sculptor and co-founder of Salão Coboi, which I started with José Cardoso two days after Michael Jackson’s death. And so far, Salao Coboi is a mutant collective that works with artists like Rui Abibe (wood sculpture), Mario Carvalhal (cinema), Elder Macedo (photography), Sara Martins (photography), and Markus Ley (Round Square Collective). Unfortunately though, José Cardoso is no longer part of the team.

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What does Salão Coboi mean?

Salão Coboi means Cowboy Salon in Portugues. But in our case salon comes from the Salon de Paris, which was the greatest art event of the Western World in the 19th century. I guess we also like to imagine ourselves as character design pioneers who are trying to conquer Western Europe, but now that I think the West has been won, maybe it’s time to ride our horses elsewhere.

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Is the profit from selling work split evenly amongst all the members of the collective?

We are pretty fair and share our spoils between everyone that risks their necks for Salão Coboi.

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Why is your blog named Cowboy Soundcheck?

The name of the blog comes from the title of a song by Black Dice. It was only supposed to be a temporary thing, like our soundcheck or imagecheck for that matter, until the website was ready, but it’s just taken us longer to finish it then we thought.

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Are all of the scultures in your store limited editions?

We make some one-of-a-kind sculptures as well as limited editions. Our limited editions are only in series of 5 or 9 pieces but, in the end, they are all unique because the paintwork and accessories on each one is different. For example, in the piece “Paco”, the heads are all the same, but the headpieces are all different – creating distinct identities.

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Can you take us through the process creating one of your sculptures from beginning to end?

When I’m producing a set of limited-edition sculptures I use oil clay to build the figure and then cast it in resin from a rubber mold. However, I sculpt the one-of-a-kind pieces directly with polymer clay. It all starts with a wire structure that I add layers of clay to until I reach a desired shape. Then I bake it in a regular oven and spend an awful amount of time sanding and it takes forever. When that’s all done, I airbrush the piece and finish it off with varnish.

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How did Generation H come about?

None of it was commissioned by the fashion companies we based the clothing of the characters off of, but I hope that they get to know the project and that it gets them curious and excited about us. Generation H was actually the result of an insult swap between Round Square and Salão Coboi. It’s a portrait of a generation that finds their own personality through intense research and immediate absorption of any trend found in different sub-cultures. Markus Ley selected the garments and then approached us about creating the models to wear them. It resulted in 5 one-of-a-kind pieces that were originally exhibited in Dama Aflita Gallery and then went on to a store named”Por Vocação“, which made perfect sense since they sell some of the brands that our characters are wearing.

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Did the collective hand carve the sculptures in the photos above?

Rui Abibe carved the chair and our totem. Abibe and I were classmates at Porto’s Fine Art School and so every time we need a real man for the hardcore parts of our projects, he’s our guy. We usually just send him a really rough sketch of what we imagine and leave the rest to his imagination. And it’s always a pleasant surprise for us because we don’t ever get to see the final result until we set up the show!

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Do all of your characters have names and narratives associated with them?

Yes, the vast majority have names. But most of the time we come up with the names when the sculptures are done. For example, “Paco” really does look like a Paco! Which, by the way, is an amulet against loneliness. In other cases, the names can be nicknames of people we know or homages to people we admire, like our green monster, “Benny Swamp”, who we named in memory of the comedian Benny Hill. And “Benny Swamp” is actually part of a trio, along with “Hobo” (the dick nosed character) and “Broguinhas” (the ghost character) who are depicted in drawings, photos, sculptures, and costumes for a show we did named “Pouca Vergonha”, which basically translates to something similar to shamelessness. There’s a whole narrative around it too that actually originated as an erotic fotonovela – a small pamphlet akin to a comic-book with photographs instead of illustrations.

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What are some of your favorite movies to draw inspiration from?

There are two that have had a direct impact on our work recently, Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Wicker Manthe original from 1973 and not the remake with Nicholas Cage.

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Why do a lot of your characters wear masks?

There are so many symbolic meanings that are both spiritual and mythological, which you can assign to a mask. I just hope that each person interprets Salão Coboi’s work as they please and that it allows them to celebrate something! There’s not a deep, profound, conceptual meaning behind all of it – it’s just me wishing that the masks gave the characters special powers.


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