West Roxbury native Kostas Seremetis cut his teeth as an underground artist in Boston in the 1990s — his commissions included painting the walls of the Lansdowne Street punk club Axis, and creating movies for an unknown Boston band that went on to become the Elevator Drops. Then he moved to New York and became an art-world big shot. The Cult's Ian Astbury has called him "the Rauschenberg of our generation," and the director Darren Aronofsky is a fan, as is the tastemaking Tokyo curator Takashi Murakami. Fifteen years after he left, a 38-year-old Kostas returned to his old stomping ground to unveil "Ready . . . Steady . . . Go!," a survey of his recent work, at Fourth Wall Project in the shadow of Fenway Park — and within shouting distance of the old Axis. He brought with him a slew of new pop-art prints — skulls and Captain America, a series of comic-book covers mashed up with historical figures. He also totally invented a new way to watch the original Star Wars movies: playing around the clock at Fourth Wall is Trilogy, which runs Star Wars on the left third of the screen, The Empire Strikes Back in the middle third, and Return of the Jedi on the right — simultaneously.
>> SLIDESHOW: "Ready... Steady... Go!" at the Fourth Wall Project <<
DO YOU LIKE BEING BACK IN BOSTON? I love coming back. But Boston has changed since I left 15 years ago. The punk-rock element is gone; it's become very Abercrombie and Fitch. I miss the Rat, Spit, and Axis, and the Cambridge vibe Boston used to have. But this is still my genesis. I left for a greater purpose, and to come back with my best work all these years later is comforting. I'm finally confident that my work is worthy.
YOUR WORKS FINGER PAINTINGS AND COMMON COURTESY SHOW MICKEY MOUSE FLIPPING THE BIRD. SMART MOVE? I like to think so. I felt that Mickey Mouse giving the finger was a pinnacle image, really important. I really like working with cartoons, it's a comfort zone, and I can apply that to my process. I enjoy painting, and these are fun to make. They are really deconstructed. I used a palette knife, which is rich in texture. I also made six-foot, five-ton [Mickey] statues made out of marble. They're amazing. But truthfully I don't think Mickey Mouse is a very interesting subject. I like Bugs Bunny much better — he was a wiseass.
THERE'S A GIANT BLUE WOODEN STAR HANGING FROM THE CEILING. HOW'D YOU MAKE IT? It's a month of hard labor: a five-point star made from authentic police barricades.
"AUTHENTIC," AS IN STOLEN? I wouldn't say stolen. They're discarded material. They're just left there in the streets for years. These ones were actually given to me by a motorcycle club that hangs out near my studio. They saw the smaller pieces I made in the window and thought I should have them. I'm really happy with this piece. It's not like my other work. I like my work to be unchained, and I'd be dishonest with myself if I only stuck to one thing.