Monsters ink, paint - Brooklyn Paper

Monsters ink, paint

Surrounded by art: Artists Frank Russo and Martina Secondo Russo are celebrating 10 years of MF Gallery showcasing underground art, including their own.
Photo by Hannah Palmer Egan

Artist Frank Russo is as Brooklyn as they come, but he adorns one of his newest wood cutouts with a southern confederate flag.

The graphic work of art — a large, red monster-face with the blue and white starred “X” across it — has a deeply personal back story for Russo.

He was adopted from Dallas, Texas and raised in Brooklyn, but didn’t find out until he applied for a passport at the age of 21.

“It came as shock, but then I felt this kinship to the South,” said Russo. “It’s weird because artists will do weird stuff and never explain it, but this piece, [‘Dr. Tex’], I do like to talk about a lot.”

Russo said the wooden face reflects his dual personality: who is he and who he could have been.

“The rebel flag reflects in my art the rebel mentality,” said Russo. “I push the boundaries in my art and like to live on the edge. The face has a tribal feel, that was a nod to the [Texas] tribe I could of been a part of instead the Brooklyn tribe I am a part of.”

Russo’s “Dr. Tex,” along with many more of his pieces, and that of nearly 100 other artists including Fernando Carpaneda, L’amour Supreme, Drew Maillard, Joe Simpko, Dave Brockie, and Kristen Ferrell, is being shown at MF Gallery — the gallery he and his wife, Martina Secondo Russo, own — during its 10th Anniversary Extravaganza. The opening party celebrates 10 years since the artistic love birds opened their gallery, originally in the Lower East Side before moving to Brooklyn.

“When we first started we didn’t know if we’d last five, let alone 10 years; it’s a milestone,” said Secondo Russo.

To celebrate, the artists featured are selling all their artwork for a greatly reduced price of $100.

“We wanted to give something back to our loyal collectors, we know they can’t afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars, but they want to be able to collect from our artists,” said Secondo Russo. “And the artists wanted to honor this milestone with us and some of the artists did specific pieces for the show just for us.”

MF Gallery is the scene of Brooklyn’s teeming underground art community with art inspired from pop culture, often including healthy doses of the macabre and twisted childhood dreams of monsters and ghouls.

“They’re all monster faces inspired by 80s pop culture — all the things they spoon fed us in the 80s — like He-Man, SilverHawk, and Thundercats,” Russo said of his wood cutouts that range is size from 1.5×1.5 to 7×7.

“What I like best about art and preserve about my art is the gross-out factor from the ’80s. It was cool then — boogers, snot, slime, and monsters. It’s less politically correct now, and I think that’s something we should bring back. Everything is so restrictive now.”

Ten years later Russo has a family of his own — and one more adopted family.

“It’s a deep and talented sea of artists [in the show],” Russo said. “There’s so many people that we work with, and it’s people digging and scraping for everything, and it keeps us going…like a family in a way.”

10th anniversary celebration at MF Gallery [213 Bond St., between Butler and Baltic streets in Gowanus, (917) 446–8681, mfgallery.net]. June 8, 7–10 pm.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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