Life of the Party – Giovanni DeCunto
I found this hard to believe, to say the least. But then I looked DeCunto up online. I found out that he was indeed an artist, with his own studio in the North End, and I phoned his curly-haired guest, Alex Adeli, who had introduced himself as DeCunto’s "representative." As it turned out, Adeli was a Back Bay dentist. "Well, I am a dentist by profession," he told me. "But I am also a good friend of Giovanni’s. I am helping him to get the word out about his art." Toward that end, he invited me to come visit DeCunto’s studio.
A few weeks later, I am descending the stairs into the basement of a parochial school in the North End. When I enter the space, I’m unprepared for the visceral impact of DeCunto’s work. Front and center is a six-foot-tall canvas of a face with eyes closed and lips half-parted, emerging from multiple layers of gold and amber paint as if from lava; close up, the layers look like buttes and canyons of a bas-relief topographical map.
Some of the pieces on the walls depict familiar subjects, such as celebrities—Michael Jackson, Robert De Niro, Barack Obama—while others are abstract supernovas of color. Still other works take on political themes, with collages of images deconstructed through different levels of paint. An American flag ripped by an explosion of gold paint and what appear to be fragments of real dollar bills seems an obvious critique of capitalism, until you notice the images of national icons embedded into the paint—John Wayne, Superman, the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz—turning the painting into a pastiche of everything America holds sacred.
While DeCunto’s style isn’t for everyone, the impact of so many large, swirling canvases is arresting. "When I saw that first piece, I felt like my feet were cement blocks," says Jarred Sper, an event producer in New York City who is working to line up a show there for DeCunto. "I couldn’t move for three or four minutes." He’s not alone. Those who have commissioned work from DeCunto, I come to find out, include everyone from local developer Joe Fallon to first lady Barbara Bush.