For over three decades, Ceravolo has been creating large-scale artwork that perfectly captures a moment and holds it forever. His work graces the walls of private collectors such as Elton John and Rod Stewart, and the corporate offices of RCA Records and Warner Bros. With his undeniable talent for portrait work, viewers often think they’re gazing at a photograph. In this artist’s world, the abstract and realistic are one. In Ceravolo’s Urban Pop paintings series, Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch are depicted in the collection, as well as the original “Star Trek” cast, the Beatles, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
What’s your connection with the Hamptons?
I had a gallery on 57th Street in the city years ago. One of my first paintings was for Rod Stewart — he commissioned it — and it opened up a bunch of doors showing different places. The Palladium Theater had commissioned me to do some big pieces for the lobby. It was a lot of being in the right place at the right time. Then we moved to Water Mill years ago from Lattingtown in Locust Valley. The clients are out here, so it evolved from there.
You’ll be at the Market Art + Design Fair with ARDT Gallery. What size pieces will you have there?
Probably the biggest piece I’m bringing is 80 inches wide and six feet high. It’s a big one based on Marlon Brando in “The Wild One.” So that’s probably the biggest one this particular show. Rod Stewart and Elton’s were big, they were eight-foot tall by six-foot wide.
Tell us about your technique with the Urban Pop series.
The images were always black and white and gray. And then the covers came about to kind of complement the black and white and grey. The Marlon Brando one, it starts as a big abstract, a big canvas with reds and black, metallic blue and everything. Then I’ll think about what I want to paint over it. Then I’ll paint the Marlon Brando, the abstract, almost in a graffiti kind of way, like they would paint over a building or sides. That’s where that process came about.
Speaking of your Urban Pop series, who is the little character in each of them? It seems to be a signature of sorts.
His name is G. He just came about a few years ago as a cute little character to put in. So, I have him with Mick Jagger, and the gopher is sort of like the Keith Richards character. He’s got a Telecaster guitar and a headband. With Michael Jackson, he’s dancing, kind of leaning over. He’s in 99 percent of those styles and he evolved and became a cute character.
Much of the series focuses on the past. What’s your affinity for yesteryear?
I like the feel of the older classics. Even some of the work is kind of a pinup style based on the 1960s, but it has a stylized kind of feel to it. And it’s always been engraved early on just as large oil on canvas portraits with a little softer focus style. I’m bringing to the Market Art + Design Fair the newest canvas I have, called “French Style Girls.” It’s got a Brigitte Bardot painting in the soft-focus oil on canvas style on one third of the canvas. Then the other one is sort of a girl, a French maid with a bucket of paint. There’s copy from a vintage poster that I painted in where you just see some letters filled in.
You even have superheroes.
I always think graphically. So, when I see imagery, like a superhero, I think it’ll look great combined with an abstract background with comic books. Years ago, I did a series of old-time baseball players. I’d like to obey the uniforms in the fold. And they kind of lend themselves to my style of painting.
What are the aluminum sculptures you’ve done?
The three children are life size. So maybe five feet high and seven feet wide. It has that illusion of a three-dimensional effect. We call them portrait illusions. I’ll do a painting and then throw some more paint on top of it, take a brush and just put it on top. With the aluminum, it was painting the shadow to kind of lift it off the canvas and give it a little three dimensionality. The cherry tree was for a private collector and I wanted to put my little illusions over it. I haven’t sold any locally here but I’d have to do another one because I think it’s perfect for a setting in the Hamptons in the backyard. It can be any height; that one was eight or 10 feet tall, but it can be 18 feet tall, or as small as needed.
Learn more about Ceravolo and his work at www.ardtgallery.com and see him this weekend at the Market Art + Design Fair at The Bridgehampton Museum in Bridgehampton.