Cardella and his carved surfboards at the beach, silhouetted by the setting sun
Joe Cardella: Perpetual Innovator
The ARTLIFE Foundation is the culmination of the life work of artist Joe Cardella. He was an internationally recognized artist and a leader of the art community in Ventura, California. Cardella produced assemblage art and sculpture.
Cardella (1945 - 2018) was a prodigious artist. He made over 400 works in many media, including sculptures, assemblages, collages, mobiles, balances, jewelry, and hundreds of drawings, watercolors, and paintings. He was also an exacting artist/publisher, organizing 10,000 individual multi-media works on paper for the complete set of his ART/LIFE Journal, with 275 monthly editions over 25 years.
Joe Cardella's Art: Major Influences
The principles that guided much of Cardella’s work took off from the famous Fluxus 1960 manifesto by George Maciunas. He called for a revolutionary, non-elitist art that could be made of anything and anyone could do it. Such art should have no commodity value and allow one to experience the creativity and joy of making things without the weight of art history or academic schools.
Fluxus was an anti-art movement. What was left behind from the fluxing or purging of mainstream art was “concrete art,” the real and the ready-made (and certainly not “abstract” art). Duchamp, John Cage and George Brecht reduced art to these ordinary essentials. Borrowing Duchamp’s fascination with ready-made objects, Cardella used things like hammers and knives in his art, which signaled tools for breaking things like traditions, rules and constraints on the imagination. They seem both threatening and tame when placed in a frame or on a wall.
While Cardella’s art emphasizes concepts, he did not value the intellectual idea over the object. He used “found objects” in his art, and he was very meticulous about both the product and the concept behind it.
One potentially conceptualist work was his “Flag Project,” where he and travelers photographed the black and white ART/LIFE flag in famous places throughout the US and the world. The journey itself with the flag fulfilled the artistic concept of carrying through a plan over vast stretches of time and space.
Cardella shares some of the delight in violent imagery and smashing traditions with the Futurists, who prefigure Fascism. Many of his works feature blades, slings and arrows against the conventional, the tired and tame. But he did not share Futurist obsessions with aggressive speed and aerodynamic streamlining. He never eulogized war, never glamorized violence and was a progressive peacenik at heart.
Assemblage, Joseph Cornell, Found Objects
Cardella used tossed away bits and pieces of consumer society to construct his multi-media sculptures, assemblages, and box-like collages. He obviously admired Joseph Cornell and his dream boxes, though he did not follow Cornell’s rejection of surrealism’s violence and eroticism. His assemblages contain his most suggestive juxtapositions of these “found objects,” conveying an overt but often comic sexuality. An old wood violin case becomes a container of suggestive objects. Cardella’s delight in the sea finds expression in the many nautical and beach-scavenged objects he carves and modifies into expressive art.
You'll see these influences and more at Joe Cardella's Home/Studio where Joe's artwork and his collections of useful objects are preserved as Joe left them and open to the public for docent-led tours.