Louis Bubko treasures the moment when he reached the zenith of modeling.
“I was booked for the Coca-Cola filming of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and it appeared in the most random places. I was on a billboard in Lagos, Nigeria,” se he recalled. “Then someone from Mexico posted this Instagram story and tagged me and said, ‘Is that you?’ and that been me on a McDonald’s bag, which is so fierce. This is my proudest moment in modeling, being on a Mexican McDonald’s bag.
At 23, Louis has become a hard-to-quantify downtown It-Boy Despite him. She was a dummy, but also a kind of fake. Every once in a while he pops up, like Zelig, in a fashion campaign or magazine – a mischievous Waldo with a gap between his front teeth and a unibrow starter kit. He is Instagram and TikTok famous for his @foundbylouis stories that blur the line between self-expression and masquerade. @foundbylouis is him, but only to a certain extent.
Louis is constantly filming and posting. Its content is just as awesome, silly, trashy and meta, and still deeply funny. He often plays with social media tropes and the gullibility of some of his followers whose comments and hysteria are part of the schtick. Some of his best bits are fleeting stories that disappear into the Instagram ether. He does real confessionals, stages fake digital fights (like the time he called and tagged a friend for stealing $15,000 worth of jewelry and owing him money to pay for his grandmother’s therapy) . His current gag claims he is majoring in “reading” at Columbia. There was also the fake time he spoke out against same-sex marriage.
“I used to book American Eagle Pride campaigns, and haven’t since,” he laughs. “I’m not the most sure of the brand. I’m sure there have been plenty of opportunities that have slipped through my fingers, but I also don’t want an opportunity where I feed on the sensationalism of political correctness and virtue signaling to get a job. People in the age of social media do not have the ability to think critically about anything. Of course, I’m not against same-sex marriage. I don’t care who gets married. I don’t care what other people do with their lives. »
“I’m an anti-influencer,” he added. “My whole social media persona is like one big piece of performance art and it seems like everyone takes it at face value.”
So, has Louis really been not just a prankster, but an artist, all this time?
“It’s his best work of art,” said Finley, the director of LaMaMa Gallery. “He’s an artist and you can plug him into different things like fashion. Even though his work is wild, a bit punk, and has a connection to humor, he’s pretty serious about it.
Earlier this week, Louis stood on the Great Jones Street pavement outside the gallery. He wore an oversized green and brown plaid shirt with only the top two buttons fastened, paired with a red baseball cap and cropped athletic shorts. A decidedly lo-fi video montage shimmered on the window screen in front of him.
The book, titled 2 years lifetime, compiles some of the footage Louis has shot over the past two years (mostly on his favorite 2006 vintage JVC camera). Some originated as guerrilla music videos for his friend Jonah Almost’s chamber techno pop. It will be on display until April 17 and is part of the gallery’s new “LaMaMa Windows” series, where artists take over the window every two weeks.
Passers-by can see images of Louis and Jonah vamping through the city streets, often shirtless. Jonah navigates the retail hell of Times Square on a bleeding skateboard in a clip from a reality show catfight. The rubbish accumulates. MySpace emo girls from the early 2000s with terrible hair. Pulses of long-lost public access television broadcasts.
“When I make a video, I shoot it on a bunch of different old cameras,” Louis said. “I don’t like editing it on my cell phone. Sometimes I have to have the film developed. And then I’ll mix the footage and spend hours editing stuff for a one minute video.
Louis is the product of growing up glued to YouTube. He started making videos as a kid in rural upstate New York. He dreamed of being a horror director and making his own slasher movies with himself. He shares clips from his childhood on Instagram, like a whole slew of himself at age 12 wearing a wig as his character Tina, who has an elephantine Long Island accent.
He fell in love with the idea of modeling after seeing an advertisement in which Georgia May Jagger said, “Get the London look”. As he gets older, he takes the bus to the city and his horizons widen. “My uncle is gay and he works at MoMA and showed me female disorder when I was 13,” he said, referring to the John Waters film.
He moved to town as a teenager to pursue modeling and ended up making videos for nightclub parties and briefly became a nightlife staple. He booked numerous modeling gigs, but was quickly disenchanted and dumped by his agency after talking about it on Instagram.
“I’m 5’7″, I wasn’t the next Naomi Campbell,” he said. “I was signed on my personality. The things I was getting were on my own and they would take 20%.” Louis still does occasional modeling. He’s in the current issue of Double magazine.
“My criteria is that I have to respect the artists who do it,” he said. “I’m not so desperate anymore.
Louis currently works at Total, a hip management company that represents stylists like Mel Ottenberg and fashion photographers like Brett Lloyd and Bruno Staub. He manages the website and social networks, and produces the artists’ portfolios. While in Paris for Fashion Week last fall, he pulled off what will be his biggest pop culture stunt since the McDonald’s bag.
Louis has been a fan of the French artist duo Pierre et Gilles since he discovered them through their cover for Dee-Lite’s single “Good Beat” in 1991. (Dee-Lite is Louis’ favorite band, and he has a tattoo of Lady Miss Kier on his arm.) Louis messaged them and offered his and Jonah’s modeling services. The pair were a natural fit for the gay fantasia that Pierre and Gilles are known for.
“It was really important to meet artists whose work you love,” Louis said. The painting will be presented at the Pierre et Gilles exhibition in November in Paris. Temple Gallery. The Enchanted Garden depicts Jonah in a pastel jockstrap; Louis wears a demented furry flamingo. Her personality was perfectly captured.
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