MEET AMERICA'S POP ARTIST, JOHN STANGO
When it comes to America and art, John Stango wears his heart on his sleeve, and on his paint splattered pants and shoes, as he puts in a full day at the office – his paint-speckled studio on Philadelphia’s south side
“I love America and I love life as an entertainer,” says Stango, as he swipes broad strokes of bright blue and black acrylic paint on a giant canvas featuring his latest renditions of starlets Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. “I’m a painter who’s a lot like a standup comedian with a brush,” Stango explains. “The more in your face my paintings are, the better.”
His in-your-face, testosterone-fueled style was fostered during the formative years, when he was the perennial class clown with a natural quick wit. Now it’s his explosive color palette that lures the audience in before he delivers the punchline with the signature detail, and clever whimsy of his paintings.
The influences of pop art greats Andy Warhol, Peter Max, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and LeRoy Neiman are evident in John’s masterful work that captures iconic pop figures like only Stango can. “I really dig the whole vibe around Andy Warhol,” Stango noted. “Warhol was one of the biggest American artists of all time, and certainly one of the biggest influences on me and my brand of pop art.”
Stango uses a unique combination of hand silk screening, intense brush strokes and explosions of color to create his distinctive and highly sought after paintings. His subjects range from Hollywood and political icons to sports heroes and a new spin on Americana. His iconic concept pieces that showcase some of John’s most imaginative work feature sexy bombshells, designer logos and cultural imagery in clever, one-of-a-kind compositions. “Who else paints flowers growing from a can of baked beans,” Stango mused. “I’m not always sure where it all comes from, but the goal is to make people smile.”
Stango didn’t start painting seriously until his early twenties. He excelled at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, and he would later discover that art is literally in his blood. The artistic talents John and his late mother, Frances Elaine Rockwell, shared could be traced back to a cousin – famed American artist Norman Rockwell. “My mother was such a great painter, but she never had a chance to pursue an art career and never really talked much about our Rockwell family ties,” John explained. “I’m proud to be part of keeping a family tradition and legacy alive.”
REFLECTING ON ROCKWELL
As John Stango sees it, Norman Rockwell was the Andy Warhol of his time. Magazine covers were the Internet of the 1940s through the 1970s and for nearly 60 years Norman Rockwell created hundreds of cover paintings for top magazines like the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell considered magazines to be the “greatest show window in America.” Stango and artists today have a split-second window to make a big impression with their work, competing for eyeballs with films, television shows and a constant barrage of online imagery.
“My paintings should grab people by their shirt,” says Stango. “And I really think my work would stop Norman Rockwell in his tracks. I have no doubt he would dig these paintings.” If Stango’s cable guy is any indication, his pop art has struck a chord with the masses. “Our cable guy came over to connect my service and just stopped and stood there in front of one of my paintings on the wall,” John recalled. “I said, ‘Hey the TV’s over here’, and he said, ‘Wow, this painting is so cool.’ He lost himself in that painting for a while,” Stango said with a chuckle. “That’s the kind of reaction I’m getting from celebrities, politicians, and just about everyone who sees these paintings.”
Stango is a hardworking artist, a prolific painter much like Warhol and Rockwell were. As a result, his work is in more than a dozen galleries and hundreds of homes and businesses across the U.S. He refuses to take shortcuts, as evidenced by the handmade, hand-pulled silkscreen imagery that has become a trademark of John’s cutting-edge pop pieces.