Desire Obtain Cherish


Desire Obtain Cherish aka Jonathan Paul is blazing a trail in the art world without regard for etiquette or tradition.  Utilizing banal subject matter and an inconsistent artistic practice, his methods appear counterintuitive with professional art world notions of success. Whether it’s a performance mocking change promised by President Obama or a street art installation poking fun at what the general public constitutes high art, this artist is ruffling feathers and doing things his own way.

Paul entered the art scene in Los Angeles utilizing the platform of street art, yet he appears to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. While the guerrilla style art installations are a mantra and symbol of success in both graffiti and street art, these highly visible and dangerous stunts appear to be a means to an end. In fact, the artist is self-deprecating when describing his work, often undercutting the very accomplishments that bring him fame and attention. This is a rare characteristic in an art world that favors the intellectual and scorns the accessible.

Paul’s pseudonym Desire Obtain Cherish conveys the intent of his art and the subject of ridicule. Essentially the three stages of consumerism, the artist evokes this process from his audience while at the same critiquing it.  One can see this in his Gucci Handcuffs or sets of designer pills featuring the logos of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Hermes. Brands that we are taught to desire, obtain, and cherish – the artist makes a mockery of them by creating detailed and beautifully crafted objects with a subversive edge. Ultimately this places the viewer in a moral conundrum for enabling the very thing they are critical of desiring.

Paul is not a naïve or a self-taught artist. In fact, this graduate of Parson’s School of Design is highly educated in art theory and has rebelled against this aristocratic means of communicating. He instead commandeers popular symbols and twists their meaning. Paul credits his education in an ad agency for helping him understand real work and people. These are concepts that the art world has eradicated with the advent of modernism and through the development of art in the 20th and 21st century. It was the symbolist painter Paul Gauguin that said: “The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of art's audience. Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public.” This is a notion that rings true for Paul as he provokes the public regarding the importance of visual objects and what they say about society.

Visiting his studio, it’s clear that his background in design is highly influential on his current agenda to make art that communicates boldly and directly. In jest Paul states “I’m not a painter, sculptor, printmaker or craftsman, and I often refer to myself as a con artist.” A nod to the efficiency of design, Paul has elevated this craft to an art and is clearly influenced by masters like Roy Lichtenstein and Claus Oldenburg, but it’s perhaps more appropriate to compare his recent Blow Pop sculptures and Hershey Crosses to the irony of Jeff Koons mixed with the accessibility and humor of Banksy.

When asked why he duplicated the image of the Brillo Box as a sculpture, Andy Warhol said “…because it’s easier.” A notion that has larger philosophical ramifications and can change our perspective and provoke deep thought about context and art. While Warhol required the gallery to acknowledge what is art, Paul is part of reversing this connotation. A recent example is the Monster Martini installation that was installed outdoors for the downtown Los Angeles Art Walk. The artist watched from a distance as gallery hoppers stopped to take pictures and pose with the installation. Meanwhile a middle-aged security guard began waving his hands yelling at the pedestrians from across the street that they needed to step away from this work yelling: “This isn’t art, it’s dangerous!” Instantly recognized as art outside the gallery context, Paul has leveraged an aesthetic to critique what he sees fit.

Through the name Desire Obtain Cherish, Jonathan Paul is challenging assumptions and cultural markers using populist imagery in a subversive manner. Whether its unhealthy food options, world politics, or illegal advertising, engaging his art only provokes this dialogue and raises awareness to what we desire.