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The artist known as Plastic Jesus had a good reason for dumping a life-size Oscar statue, desperately snorting cocaine on all fours, in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. The artist tells The Hollywood Reporter the stunt was specifically intended to dismantle Hollywood’s polished facade by exposing its dark side.
Plastic Jesus is a former photojournalist from London who moved to L.A. eight years ago to explore installation art as a way to address major sociopolitical and cultural issues. His works include last year’s Oscar statue with a heroin needle in its arm, inspired by the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and 2013’s graffiti piece featuring Lance Armstrong cycling while attached to an IV bag.
His latest installation, the coked-out Oscar, appeared in Hollywood Thursday morning around 9:30 a.m. Plastic Jesus had hired security to make sure no one vandalized or stole the piece, but he decided to move it back to his studio a few hours later, around 2:30 p.m.
Plastic Jesus says he made the decision after an older gentleman showed up and threatened to report the statue to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the Walk of Fame. The man had loudly called the statue “disgusting and obscene.”
But unlike last year’s heroin-inspired stunt, Plastic Jesus tells THR, this year’s installation was less about an individual tragedy and more about the broader trend of excess and drug abuse in Hollywood.
Plastic Jesus chose to target Oscar season specifically because the Academy glamorizes a tuxedo-clad Hollywood while ignoring the issues that plague its culture.”People are up there accepting awards,” he says, “but let’s not forget about the rampant problems in this town.”
With Thursday’s death of Parks and Recreation producer Harris Wittels, Plastic Jesus says, regretfully, he couldn’t have delivered his message at a more appropriate time. “There’s another drug-related Hollywood death,” he says. “And nothing will change.”
Plastic Jesus says he chose cocaine as a drug that is representative of Hollywood’s money culture. “Cocaine and the entertainment industry go hand-in-hand,” he says, insisting the piece wasn’t about mocking celebrity culture so much as it was about starting an effective dialogue about drug abuse, not just one focused on suppression.
“The war on drugs isn’t working. I don’t want to say we should legalize all drugs, but something needs to change,” the artist adds. “People aren’t getting the help they need.”
Plastic Jesus’ coke-sniffing Oscar is now sitting in his studio, but he plans to resurface it Saturday on Melrose Avenue. He eventually wants to display it in L.A.’s street art gallery LAB ART, where last year’s heroin Oscar is currently on sale for $25,000.
As for his next project, Plastic Jesus wouldn’t give details, but he did say it will focus on bank lending and debt in America.
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