Best known for his murals depicting the anatomies of tigers, rabbits, sharks and pop culture mainstays like Spongebob and Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Austrian street artist Nychos offers viewers a new perspective on the father of psychoanalysis with his latest public art installation in partnership with the Vienna Tourist Board. Titled The Dissection of Sigmund Freud, the 10-foot tall sculpture consists of Freud’s famous couch over a larger-than-life dissected image.
On view in New York’s Flatiron Plaza, the work is a head-trip for viewers. The artist tells The Creators Project, “I really hope that just by virtue of being a massive sculpture of Sigmund Freud, this piece will stay in people’s heads for a while.” For three days, visitors are invited to the public installation called Vienna Therapy that includes Nychos’three dimensional white sculpture as well as programming connected to Freud’s homeland of Austria.
What lies beneath—or inside, rather—has been a longstanding interest of Nychos.The Dissection of Freud is just a taste of what will be on view at his subsequent solo show called IKON at the Jonathan Levine Gallery where other pop culture heavyweights are split, made see-through, or melted. So what goes on inside the mind of a man who takes viewers inside the bodies of animals and icons? We put Nychos on the couch for a Freud-inspired interview about what motivates his work.
The Creators Project: Freud recognized that there are an infinite variety of personalities, but he identified three main types: erotic, obsessive, and narcissistic. Which one are you personally? And which one is your art work?
Nychos: Both are obsessive. I am obsessive about my artwork and my artwork is obsessive in itself. The erotic part comes in my creative breaks.
Any trepidation about taking on a subject like Freud?
Not really. He’s a strong figure but there are stronger ones. I think he’s a really good one to start my portrait period. It’s actually perfect that we made this giant sculpture of a dissected Freud because we have certain parallels. It’s sort of referential to my story, but I just also wanted to get people thinking about what’s inside the mind the way Freud did, but very differently. Dissecting a mind; the visual metaphor was just perfect.
Did you like taking things apart as a kid?
A lot of what I do refers to my childhood. I was taking animals apart with my dad when I was small since he’s a hunter. I wanted to know what things looked like underneath as a kid, and that has never left me.
Freud called psychoanalysis the “talking cure” for releasing pent-up emotions. Does art serve this function for you?
Yeah, of course. Without output, I would go nuts mentally. I would be someone you don’t want to be around. I just need to create.
Can it serve this function for the public?
No. Or yes. It always depends on the person who is looking at it or taking it. It really says a lot about the onlooker. How much does it touch us? Does it scare us? I think that’s one of the main purposes of art—to create a feeling. If it can cure anything, then that is in the hands of the person themselves.
Much of your artwork is public. Do you ever stick around after painting a piece to see how people interact with it?
No, once it’s painted it’s not in my hands anymore. I know what it means to me, but now it’s on the streets and I leave it to the people. I’m interested in how people will take it especially in different places, but I’m not too concerned with standing around to see how people react.
The Dissection of Sigmund Freudprecedes your solo show IKON at Jonathan Levine Gallery. How did you decide on which pop culture icons to feature?
My research for the show goes way deeper than the icons I painted this time. I really had to cut it down. I was just searching for a good mix. My favorite piece is the dissection of Lemmy [Kilmister of Motörhead]. I remember thinking that I should really paint Lemmy because I know he’s not going be around that long (which is also why I painted Ozzy.) Then, the next morning I woke up and Lemmy was dead and I thought, “Alright, that’s creepy. I guess I really have to paint a portrait of him now.”
Are there any icons you wish you’d included, but didn’t?
Bowie, but I’m also thinking about the future. This is the first “Ikon” show, but there are loads more to come. I was keeping some [subjects] that I wanted to spend more time on. That’s also part of why I didn’t paint Michael Jackson even though I really wanted to. I’m going to save him for later.
Vienna Therapy runs from June 16-18th in New York City. Everyone who participates in Vienna Therapy will be given the chance to win a bespoke trip to Vienna.To learn more about the IKON is on display at Jonathan Levine Gallery from June 25–July 23.