Artblog Celebrating 20 Years!   Support Us Today!

Butch Cordora’s Absolution Lab – Pop celebrity love at Ven and Vaida


Butch Cordora, who has been in the Philly art scene for five years now, was once the host of his own cable TV talk show “In Bed with Butch” which aired for ten years. Butch now commits his time to art, specifically appropriation art. If you’re looking for something new avert your gaze because you won’t find it here, and that’s appropriate when considering appropriation art is about questioning the pursuit of the new (or what attempts to be original). Repetition is held in high esteem in appropriation art; that’s the goal.

Butch Cordora, portrait of Butch, archival print on canvas

Absolution Lab, opening Sept. 2 at  Ven and Vaida Gallery, worships at the altar of celebrity and kneels before the cult of Pop. The creative gesture is sacrificed without an ounce of guilt, high concept its redemption. Both the dead and living roam within this series clad in acid-technicolor skins designed to match your curtains, couch or rug — and they will. These works are an authentic voice of arrested development; that’s not a pejorative as much as it is a fact: Appropriation art is an act of arrested development — there’s no looking forward; appropriation art looks back.

Butch is very careful when choosing an image to appropriate; he talks with passion about the hunt for just the right one. For insistence, Paris Hilton framed in a car window while being allegedly arrested for drug possession. The insight into this image surprised me, but I’m not sure why. “There’s nothing new under the sun” is a theory/cliché that has always made me uncomfortable; something about the theory reeks of low self-esteem; it presupposes there’s no reason to invent something new. But artists like Butch, who don’t invent anything new but recycle old images or ideas, may actually reflect the human condition as it really exists — a cyclical prison.

Corey Armpriester-What were your influences in making “Absolution Lab”?
Butch Cordora- It’s Warhol, Shepard Fairey, Bansky, I suppose its contemporary appropriators, but it speaks to Warhol more than anything.

Butch Cordora, Paris Hilton, archival print on canvas

What’s your interest in Warhol about?
He speaks to the way I do art. I love the idea of manipulating something that already exists to make it your own, I find it fascinating.

How long have you been making art?
A good five years.

You were also an actor?
Throughout the late 80s and 90s, I did film, theater and TV commercials, I was an extra in every Bruce Willis film that came through Philly in the 90s.

Did you have management?
No, I never joined SAG (Screen Actors Guild); just lots of extra work. I would say the height of my acting career came in the form of a play at Plays and Players Theater called Ten Naked Men. It was a comedy and I played a porn director. We went on tour for six months and I was working with people like Ryan Idol and Jeff Stryker.

What happened to your talk show In Bed With Butch?
Two things happened in 08 — the economy was a big factor. I went from eight or nine sponsors down to one. In one season, the bottom just fell out. Before that, my budget was so high I could bring celebrities down from NYC, give them hotel rooms, feed them and pay for travel.

Butch Cordora, Roman Polanski, archival print on canvas

What is your day job?
My day job is, I’m a  home health care aid for a disabled man in Center City, little bit nanny, little bit nurse, little bit assistant. It’s a great job and I love it.

Who represents your art in Philadelphia?
Karen Green who’s the owner of Ven and Vaida Gallery, she’s been representing my work for one year and we’ll see how this new show goes and see if she wants to keep me on, if the show is a success.

What’s the criteria for success?
Success is how much you sell mixed with the press.

Diana Car x4 1web
Butch Cordora, Diana’s car, archival print on canvas

The work in Absolution Lab is very celebrity-centric, what’s the fascination there?
They make for good fodder, for art.

Is the world of celebrity being used to distract us from real world issues?
It certainly seems that way doesn’t it, but as a society, we are to blame.

Is Absolution Lab challenging that?
I hope its commentary on it, I’m sure I’m perpetuating it in a way.

How do you cultivate your own celebrity?
I don’t have a formula, I’m putting one foot in front of the next, I don’t really have a plan.

Where do you source your materials?
Everywhere and anywhere, popular culture.

08 04 11 Winehouse x 4 variation 4web
Butch Cordora, Amy Winehouse, archival print on canvas

You added one last piece to the Absolution Lab series, a portrait of Amy Winehouse, why was she brought into the fold?
A little too soon? It was too perfect.

When was the last time you behaved badly?
I don’t know, I’m boring.

I don’t believe that for a second.
I’m a little slutty but is that behaving badly? I really don’t do anything; I’m 51 years old I’m not a kid. I’m a responsible adult with a full time job taking care of another human being.

Is Butch your birth name or a chosen name?
No, it’s a nick name from my parents I’ve had since I was three years old because I was heavy.

Thank you Butch.