A body whose musculature is extremely trained, pectorals burst, veins emerging on the biceps, a cowboy hat on the head. The face of the posterized image of the body builder has, however, been covered by butterfly draw as a comics, the same that is repeated a few more times on the surface of the canvas. The work, a large size painting, is mounted on a big plywood where the American artist Alex Da Corte has painted, lilac on pink, in roman characters, the number 13. Mr. Olympia’s flower show or: no highway cowboys or… (2020) is certainly a work that looks like a rebus: the various elements and colors have been assembled with a geometric rigor but, despite this the free associations of Da Corte, surprise for their boldness and unpredictability.

Mr. Olympia’s Flower Show or: No Highway Cowboys or… as well as being a tribute to American pop culture (the bodybuilder seems to refer to a sensuality of the body that characterized the artistic research of Andy Wohrol and Robert Rauschenberg) is also a stratification of different references in which iconographies mix and remix, proposing a new reflection on contemporary visual culture. The image is desire and spectacle. Da Corte, with his painting and his installation techniques which distinguish his work, highlights the exaggeration and the absurdity of contemporary aesthetic models. The game of contrasts created by visual languages coming from different cultural and temporal dimensions, the pop culture of the aestheticization of the body or the psychedelic distortion of nature, creates a short-circuit, seductive and enchanting. Deciphering the different elements and, above all, enigmas that the artsit offeres us is a game that intrigues and involves the viewer: the Roman number could be the chapter of the cartoon in which butterflies move like animated tattoos on a perfect body, or even the cowboy could be the contemporary version of a gladiator. Without any control of a semantic cage the work explodes in many narrations whose combinations seem to be endless.

The more you look for solutions, the more the rebus gets complicated and goes away every possible conclusion. The choice of a title articulated as Mr. Olympia’s Flower Show or: No Highway Cowboys or… assumes a central role. In the reiteration of different interpretations the artist expresses his inability to propose a unique vision bur rather an assembly in which contemporary references are mixed with past cultural heritage. Da Corte becomes a pop artist of today’s desire, unable to orient himself among the excessive amount of stimuli received daily. But it is not to be frightened, the artist seems to suggest that in this path there will be irony and perhaps the pleasure of getting lost will become the value on which to base the construction of a new iconography.


Alex Da Corte,
Mr. Olympia’s Flower Show or: No Highway Cowboys or …, 2020, Installation view,
Helter Shelter or: The Red Show! or…, Sadie Coles HQ, London, 31 October 2020 – 13 February 2021
Credit: © Alex Da Corte, Sadie Coles HQ, London.
Photo: Eva Herzog