Artist Sean Go livens up pop art scene with healthy sarcasm and parody | Inquirer

Artist Sean Go livens up pop art scene with healthy sarcasm and parody

/ 10:06 PM February 23, 2023

While art often makes headlines for record auction prices, art transcends fiscal numbers because art reveals to us the human condition. Our condition as a species is often wrought with love, cruelty, and paradoxes, as human sentiment and ideas of what is right and wrong changes over time, and across geographies. As globalization affects the economy, it goes hand in hand with cultural appropriation, a process that started earlier, at the time of colonization. Simply put, it involves the use of objects of a non-dominant culture in a way that reinforces stereotypes without regard to the original meaning. To add insult to injury, the elements of appropriated culture such as dresses, dances, food, religious symbols, rituals, tattoos, and even wellness practices are used without permission.

Cultural appropriation is a source of inspiration for Sean Go, an NYC-based Filipino “pop appropriation artist” whose art is both controversial and profound as every Go’s piece has something more to it than meets the eye. In his provocative and revolutionary art, Go is flipping the script on the cultural appropriation phenomenon, turning negativity into positivity; he preaches pop appropriation as the democratization of art through the use of familiar images in pop culture to make new ideas better understood. He appropriates American popular culture iconography promoting ideas that may have you take a different look at American values. The artist hopes that in a divided world, art can bring people together.

Go was born and raised in the Philippines and lived there until he was 18 years old. Having moved to the US, Sean consequently obtained seven (!) degrees from some of the most esteemed American schools: three from the University of California Berkeley, two from Emory University, and one from Columbia University. Those six degrees are in business and law. His seventh degree is from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Go’s work is brilliant because of his nuanced insertion of capitalist, socialist, and economic realities. While his work has been likened in zest to works of Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol and Basquiat, he strikes me more as a Rodin. After all, Go is a “thinking man” – perhaps he even thinks too much as he blends 7 degrees and a belt of Fortune 500 work experiences into whimsical canvases of sorbet-like art pieces!

Sean Go artist

Go brings his native Filipino motifs to the Western audience blending them with Western civilization’s realities and heroes in the Filipino Heritage series of artwork. Go’s artistic manner of juxtaposing real-life subjects from one culture with cult characters belonging to a different cultural environment like in Halo Halo, where the favorite Filipino dessert – “halo halo” – is shown against the backdrop of the popular Halo video game screenshot, clearly an attribute of a different world, resembles some famous Banksy themes. Just as Halo the game unites people, so does Halo Halo the dessert, bringing momentary happiness.

Go hopes to reclaim his nation’s enthusiasm for their national treasures through combining global pop art with local culture, primarily food, transportation, and other motifs that help the Philippines come to terms with its colonial past. One of these ideas is the colonial mentality thinking that foreign products equal quality and prestige. Sean’s work “Taho Trooper,” “May the Ube Puto be with you,” and “Pikacue” highlight local food staples of the Filipino experience – taho, ube puto (rice cake) and barbecue. Delve deeper into Go’s galactic universe, and you will find oddities like “Evil Sebastian,” “Trippy Peter Pan,” and “Alice the Innocent,” who is addicted to smoking weed.

In another art piece called Apes Together Strong, which parodies pop appropriation art, Sean brings together four famed movie apes Caesar, King Louis, King Kong, and Chewbacca, sporting notorious Brixton caps from Peaky Blinders. The uncanny company’s intent stares make blood freeze in your veins, eliciting a smile at the same time. Go’s messages of unity are even more apt today, when discord and hate are often used in political propaganda.

The Seven Dwarfs series is a subtle attempt at mocking a human weakness called escapism, a way to run away from problems as well as boring and unpleasant aspects of everyday life. From drugs to alcohol to junk food gluttony to obsession with all sorts of digital diversions, Sean’s Dwarfs indulge in modern-day vices, the proverbial seven ‘deadly sins’. Ironically, Grumpy holds a smartphone with a weird Tinder match: the Evil Queen, something to really be grumpy about. Be careful what you wish for.

Sean believes that inspiration comes all around us, like the “force” in Star Wars, which he appropriates in his art. Art is autobiographical and his experiences inform his stylistic choices, the meanings he places on symbols, and attitudes towards certain pop culture characters. By finding inspiration through our lived experiences, Go believes we are able to honor our family and friends. For Go, his piece “Emily” cherishes the memory of his deceased friend, “Sweet Juliet” laments the chase of forbidden love, and Antzilla is dedicated to his friend Anthony Gokianluy, who has been a loyal friend over the years.

Sean Go

Blending thinly veiled sarcasm into his art while paying homage to such pop art icons as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Roy Lichtenstein, Sean Go manages to uncover in a new and enticing manner those sides of our increasingly complex society that can use a healthy dose of parody. While Go is on the rise on the global stage, having been featured at CNN, Esquire, and Khaleej Times Newspaper, he believes that his growth as an artist should be slow and steady. He understands that a strong foundation is required to build a lasting career. Go is captivated by sharing stories that brighten people’s day, through poppy vibrant colors that reflect the sun’s warm disposition. Sean’s hope is that through art, more people will believe in themselves and focus on their passions. Go has had exhibitions in the USA, Indonesia, and the Philippines, most recently at MOCAF and the Xavier Art Festival. You can enjoy the full collection of Sean Go’s art here.


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TAGS: artist, Filipino American art scene
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