CARTWHEEL Preview/Studio Visit: Desire Obtain Cherish #undertheinfluence

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Damn, I love Desire Obtain Cherish. It’s art that’s just so crassly, in-your-face-smart, so spot on; but  so  luxuriously well-thought out and executed; lush, voluptuous, yet razor sharp; the lover’s kiss is really a dagger; so sweet and brutal, savvy and seductive.

Desire Obtain Cherish is actually a he, Jonathan Paul, but it’s also brand and beyond a brand–fine art blending street, pop, conceptual and appropriation art with razor’s edge, using contemporary commerce as a model and as as contextual base for the art, it’s manufacturing and its marketing, commenting on social stratification. Paul/DOC explains:

I don’t want to be the focus.. My work is commenting on society and art systems. It’s my role as an artist to maintain manufacturing habits…I’m not an activist. I just give you what you want.

And like any well-positioned consumer brand, he gives you what you want before you even know you want it.

For his Designer Drugs series, Desire Obtain Cherish creates fine art using couture branding–Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint-Laurent (or what used to be couture, since luxury brands are mass manufactured and licensed out–can’t afford a Chanel handbag? Buy the lifestyle dream with a lipstick!)–manufacturing only limited runs of giant pills sculptures with the luxury label logos and sealing them inside plastic packaging. Designer drugs, designer labels:  Panacea for our weltschmerz.  DOC was one of the big hits at both the 2012 Miami Art Fair and the 2013 LA Art Show, not only with the designer drugs, but his super-sized ice cream cones and blow-pops.  These resin sculptures reflect on our disposable culture, our need to fix ourselves with a fix: A dose of Gucci, a hit of sugar, a new lover.

The resin blow-pops were inspired by a dinner conversation DOC had with a woman who said she going to dump her boyfriend,  who she admitted was a really decent guy, because there were

so many hotties out there.

Taste, discard after one lick for something that might be better.

His designer drug series emerged from his work in the fashion industry both as an advertising director, as a high fashion magazine publisher, and as constant and astute observer of cultural and social mores.

With an pending exhibition at Scope International Art Fair New York 2013 March 6-10, with Unix Fine Art at The Armory, and preparing for #undertheinfluence his only Los Angeles solo show opening March 15 at KM Fine Arts, Desire Obtain Cherish and his studio were a flurry of activity when I dropped in for a tour and some exclusive shots–the majority of which DOC provided, based on my requests, since controlling the means of production is part of his function. Still, I was able to peek behind the curtain, and was allowed to snap a (very) few things myself.


Studio (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)

Crated art work stood the hallway ready to be shipped to New York, and upstairs in one of his “factories” (the resin sculptures are made elsewhere in Los Angeles), three of his 17 employees were assembling the gelatin pill capsules that go into making his portraits of celebrities, each of which include an 18 karat gold plated signature capsule  (18-karat gold pills with matching serial numbers are given as gift-with-purchase to buyers of his larger pieces). The crew was at work on a commission piece, a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, one of the icons DOC often uses, with his current series focusing on celebrities who died from drug overdoses.  The buyer is getting it sight unseen. DOC smiled, seeming to contradict his earlier statement:

I tell people what they want.

Drugs also appear in his paintings: Adderall, Prozac, and Viagra are crushed and mixed into the paint; his first large scale painting (below), which hangs upstairs in his studio, used Prozac pills in the lettering. DOC’s painting style has evolved and changed since this first work, becoming looser, and more digested. His paintings are now pre-sold a year in advance.

DOC’s first crushed drug painting, with Hersey’s chocolate cross

Prozac detail.


Sleeping Wakefully, acrylic, Prozac, Viagra, Adderall on canvas. (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)

DOC began this phase, High Art Entrepreneur, of his career only two years ago when he was offered a  solo show at LAB Art. Before that, he had been doing street and appropriation art, including this billboard hijack, which really put him on art radar.

My sights went bigger, into doing installation. I did the giant ice cream cone. We did the DWP workers. Then LAB Art offered me a show. There was full-fledged real estate wide open. I had four weeks, and didn’t want to say I had hadn’t ever created anything for a gallery. So I took my savings and created 45 pieces of work. In four weeks.

His background (he’s a graduate of Otis Parsons School of Design with a major in architecture and art theory) and his design skills (along with ad campaigns and fashion (he’s worked as a furniture designer), are clearly evident in his work which is precise, controlled, and well thought out without being locked away in an ivory tower. At the LA Art Show, I saw people stopping and laughing at his exhibition, pausing to take pictures and pose with the resin sculptures.  This is his goal.

People smile at my work because it makes them laugh at themselves.

That laughter doesn’t take away from the edge of his exhibition which, based on the work in progress for #undertheinfluence, promises to be a huge spectacle, a magnifying glass on Los Angeles (and therefore global consumer and creator/consumer culture). Expect “perfect” bodies encased in wrappers, pill portraits, gold bricks, and mind-boggling WTFs. Because under the influence of Desire Obtain Cherish:

It’s all about the ‘wow!’ and the ‘how?!’


Desire Obtain Cherish
March 6-10, 2013
Unix Fine Art
Scope New York 2013@The Armory
312 West 33rd. St (Skyline at Moynihan Station)
New York, NY 10001

Desire Obtain Cherish
March 15-May 11, 2013
Opening reception Friday March 15, 7pm-10pm
KM Fine Art
814 North La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90069
10% of proceeds benefit Friendly House


Studio (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish).


View from the pill building loft (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)


Work in progress (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)


Marilyn Red Stripe, 9000 capsules, work in progress (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish).


Capsules being readied (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish).

jim morrison's bet

Jim Morrison’s Bet (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)


Jim Morrison’s Bet detail with signature capsule. (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)


capsule necklace

DOC at work,with image of Judy Garland as Dorothy in a red poppy field, another of his pill portraits.


Maintaining the production (courtesy of Desire Obtain Cherish)


(courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)


Designer drug factory (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish).


(courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)


Wrapped and almost ready  (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)


(courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)


For #undertheinfluence at KM Gallery (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)


For #undertheinfluence at KM Gallery (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)



Work in progress: 1 kilo fine gold. for #undertheinfluence at KM Gallery (courtesy Desire Obtain Cherish)

EARLIER WORK:            DOC-Studio5

Street art installation, DTLA (

Martini installation/parking meter hijack, DTLA (

Ice cream cone installation, DTLA

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