Burned, Bleached and Almost Digested
Schmoozing with Artist Davide Cantoni 

By Dale Kaplan
Photos by Philip Greenberg

Designed by Alex Hochberg

Davide Cantoni’s first attempt to move to our hood was a total flop but fate eventually led him to a space on Washington and Front streets. In 1996 when he first arrived in NYC from London his friends recommended that he rent a studio in Dumbo. He took them up on their suggestion, jumped on his bike and circled around the neighborhood for hours. He saw signs advertising studios to rent or share but when he called the numbers or rang the door bells nobody answered or picked up the phone.

His presence elevates the 68 Jay community, the iconic for the people art building in Dumbo.


In those days DIY door bells were rigged up all over the neighborhood. At 68 Jay there were wires dangling from the back of the building, all culminating at the 54 Pearl Street entrance. The names of the occupants were most commonly written organically on pieces of scrap wood. This was pre-cell phone days. These bells added to the grungy artistic character of the neighborhood where you could hardly find a place to buy a cup of coffee or even a simple tuna on rye with extra mayo. Disappointed and dejected Davide settled for a space in Williamsburg, pre hipsters. However, 2 years later he lost that space and tried again to find a spot in Dumbo. This time he succeeded. “It was 50 Washington” states the artist extraordinaire, “That building no longer exists, it was on the corner of Front and Washington and there was an elevator at the corner.” He then moved to 70 Washington, then 20 Jay where he eventually secured a subsidized Wallentas studio.

After his subsidy ran out during the pandemic, Dumbo Direct found him a space at 68 Jay. He is such a great guy and fabulous artist, His presence elevates the 68 Jay community, the iconic for the people art building in Dumbo.


 I wanted to interview Davide about his current exhibition at the National Archeological Museum in Naples which is a major accomplishment.

I wanted to interview Davide about his current exhibition at the archeological Museum in Naples which is a major accomplishment. This is one of the best museums in the world and being Italian it was especially an honor to have a show of this magnitude in his country of birth. However, we just started to talk about life in general and we wandered off subject. He then shared a quirky story with me that I found quite entertaining.

Once he accepted my invitation and we got closer to my place he confided that he was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth.

“I was young and living in England coming home late after a date. I saw a man about my age wandering the dark streets and we started to talk. He seemed very pleasant and I asked him why he was out so late walking the streets. He said that he had missed the last train home and was just going to wander around until the morning, It was getting chilly and i offered to let him sleep in my extra bedroom in my flat, I felt bad for the chap walking around in the cold, Once he accepted my invitation and and we got closer to my place he confided that he was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth. He was obviously delusional. I started getting nervous but I played it cool and asked him about the queen. He said she was not nice and proceeded to explain how she hid the pregnancy from Prince Phillip. I was thinking what have I done but I felt uncomfortable going back on my word and just played along. He seemed mild mannered enough and he was very grateful to have a warm place to spend the night,

The kitchen separated the two bedrooms and I gave him the bed and some blankets and then I went off to sleep. In the middle of the night I woke up startled. The lad was standing right by my bed. I thought he was going to kill me and I pictured all the sharp knives that were in the kitchen drawers, the drawers that separated the two bedrooms. I thought about my mother and how she would never recover from the senseless murder of her son who had exhibited poor judgment that fateful night, Luckily my fears were quickly dispersed when he asked gently if I could possibly supply him with another blanket, I did so happily and make sure that we were both out of the house by 7:00 in the morning by feigning a early morning super urgent emergency meeting with my art professor.”

When you walk into Catoni’s space one observes three categories of work.
Category1- Reflective works
Category 2- Burnt drawings
Category 3- Bleach series

Davide invented the novel process of kissing and massaging the canvas with his lips and tongue


“Every decade the powers that be declare that painting as a medium is dead,” states Cantoni. As a reaction to this statement, Davide invented the novel process of kissing and massaging the canvas with his lips and tongue. When he called the paint manufacturer to inquire about toxicity ratings they were mortified. Golden paint immediately wrote a strong letter encouraging Davide to discontinue this process immediately and that they would bear no responsibility for any negative side effects. As a result of this strong disclaimer, the artist disbanded this untraditional technique but continued to explore the use of reflective materials.

© 2022 PHILIP GREENBERG philipgreenberg1@gmail.com 917 804 8385 www.pgreenbergphoto.com 2022 Dec 21 Artist Davide Cantoni at studion in 68 Jay St Brooklyn Ny ©2022 Philip Greenberg 917 804 8385 philipgreenberg1@gmail.com

Interested in history and archeology, Cantoni has consistently drawn his subject matter from images found in The New York Times. He was also interested in creating art that could not be accurately represented by a simple photograph. “I wanted to make a painting which required the viewer to be actually present in the space in order to fully experience the work.

Using reflective paint and the RGB color system, Davide has achieved this goal. Cantoni’s powerful images change at various angles. When one enters his studio, a white canvas appears totally blank. However,when the viewer changes their vantage point. a powerful portrait of an Afghani refugee appears slowly but surely in full regalia,

In his burn series, Cantoni once again draws imagery from the New York Times. His pencil drawings are then masterfully perforated with delicate holes created by directing sunlight into a magnifying glass. This reductive method results in powerful but frail, incomplete images alluding to the destructive nature of warfare and human suffering.

Cantoni’s use of Clorox, America’ most popular bleach is nothing less than transformative and awe inspiring. While most iof us use this iconic brand for whiter underwear and socks Davide experiments brilliantly with Clorox as a medium in order to produce powerful imagery utilizing blue and green bed linens as ground cloths.



Cantoni’s show at the Archeological Museum in Naples ran from September 2022 to January 2023.

His website can be found at davidecantoni.org

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