Dan Alva is an artist based in Miami who, whether despite or because of his background in the very type of advertising that he aims to challenge, deliberately changes the messages of recognizable ad campaigns to comment on the excesses of materialism and lifestyle marketing. Using actual billboard fragments, they retain enough of the original design that we clearly see the original message and can contrast it to his alterations. Check out a great Q&A with the artist!
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Can you tell me a bit about yourself? You're in Miami now; are you from there originally?
Yes, born and raised. I was in New York for a few years, but I’m back for good. The city as a whole is an inspiration. Outsiders think of Miami as just South Beach, but there is a completely different world over the bridge. That’s the real Miami.
I'm really interested in your tie-in to branding and your experience in advertising. Can you tell me a bit about what led you to that field and how it has influenced your personal work?
I’ve been working as an Art Director for over 12 years. Advertising has played a big role in my life, and I have a love/hate relationship with the business. My personal work has become an outlet to visually create whatever I want.
Do you find them to be at odds with one another at all, or are they mostly complementary?
It is ironic, but I do pull cues from both sides. Working with film directors and shooting countless TV spots has helped me develop a deeper knowledge of cameras, lighting, and overall composition.
What is your studio like?
The studio is located in Wynwood, an up and coming art district in Miami. The space itself is a large, crude warehouse where I can get messy. It’s more of a workshop than a clean white space. I share it with my copywriter from work who builds furniture. There are all kinds of projects going on at the same time. What I create there, I show at Avant Gallery, who I recently started working with.
What is your process like? Do you plan much in advance, or are you more spontaneous?
I usually mock everything up digitally before-hand. I like to see what the final outcome could be, and then work from there. For the Brandalism series, I’m taking back other brands’ advertisements and exploding acrylic spray cans onto the ads, then let the paint knock out the type. The hardest part is actually “acquiring” these ads from the street.
What do you feel has been the most fulfilling aspect of pursuing fine art in addition to design/advertising?
As a creative in the advertising world, ideas get watered down from time to time. The original concept rarely ends up being the final product. In the studio I have full creative control. It’s on me to make my vision come to life.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of working as a visual artist?
Currently, my biggest challenge is simply finding enough time to be in the studio.
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self as you were just beginning to become interested in or start studying art, what would that be?
No risk, no reward.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
I’m working on a new series that involves roof tar and neon. Tar is such a basic raw material, and it wasn’t until recently that I have found a new respect for it. The consistency and texture is something that can’t be replicated by any other medium.
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Find more work and information at danalva.com!