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Italian pop artist Luca Valentini interrogates the role men play in contemporary society and culture
Throughout history, there have been inspirational men who have had an impact on culture, society and ideas. From comedians to musicians, sportsmen and even fictional characters, these powerful male figures have shaped generations. In recent years, the typical male stereotype has been blurred from what it once was, no longer focused on brute strength but a softened interpretation usually including a regimented grooming routine.
With pop culture playing a major role in society, it takes more than just looking at these icons at face value. Rather we should be scraping the surface to reveal the deeper, more informed impact that the male voice has to inspire the shaping of the modern male image.
Through many of my pieces, I have featured male icons from diverse genres and industries, such as the likes of Elvis, Kayne West, Brad Pitt, Superman, Barack Obama, Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Karl Lagerfeld, Charlie Chaplin, Keith Richards, a Stormtrooper, Rocky and Muhammad Ali, each chosen for the different elements they represent including social issues that need to be divulged further and awakened within society today.
For instance, with Chaplin, the representation of his most recognised character, The Little Tramp, was a symbol of comic relief during the Great Depression of the 1930s. To this day, it remains iconic. With Richards, he is the ideal example of how you should be true to yourself and unapologetic of your values. This strength is reflected throughout him as a whole, whether it be his personality, rock ’n roll lifestyle or his phenomenal guitar skills.
Fictional characters can also be the perfect reflection of the social norms that dictate our lives. Such as with the Stormtrooper, a well-known figure from the Star Wars universe, it is the epitome of social conformity, with its unquestioning devotion and obedience. Even Superman had his kryptonite, as we all do, but rather than a rock from out of space, it is bits of paper that represent what rules our modern-day society.
On the other hand, Rocky and Muhammad Ali provide a wonderful parallel between fiction and nonfiction, with the ideals of mind-over-matter to achieve their dreams. A beautiful illustration that no situation is too adverse to overcome and there is always the potential for renewed resilience.
It is important, in my opinion, that each icon is immortalised with a series of symbols and metaphors to represent “purity uncorrupted”. By reworking famous individuals and characters, it provides a view of the iconic value acutely emphasised with deeper meaning. It is there to inspire and allow for truth in individualism while providing empowerment to the male voice through imagery.
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