If the work of Hollywood art director and production designer Dean Tavoularis is a form of art – and his Oscar-nominated sets for films such as Apocalypse Now are considered just that – then his latest project marks a culmination of decades of creativity. Now working as an artist in the traditional sense, Tavoularis is combining painting, drawing, photography and film stills into rich collages that go beyond what can be caught in a movie. Shown alongside his storyboard sketches at an exhibition of his work at Galerie Catherine Houard, Paris, and the Art Paris fair (where he shares a stand with his brother Alex Tavoularis’ storyboards), they offer a glimpse of both his legendary career and the man behind the name on the closing credits.

“It’s my tendency to be punchy,” says Tavoularis of his paintings and drawings. “I do both abstract and figurative because I want to find a way to combine them. A composition of architecture.” Of his use of montages, he explains: “I like the idea of the collage. It’s appealing to me to take posters from the subway and then do a drawing or a sketch around that. It’s a good spark and starting point for a drawing.” While these pieces sometimes recall abstract art and pop artists such as Andy Warhol, they are uniquely Tavoularis both in style and in the use of film stills.

Most famous for his collaborations with director Francis Ford Coppola, for whom he imagined monumental film sets, Tavoularis in fact studied architecture and painting at art school before embarking on the profession that would see him work with Arthur Penn, Roman Polanski, Michelangelo Antonioni and Warren Beatty. Beginning as a storyboard artist, Tavoularis has been nominated five times at the Academy Awards in the category of art direction, winning the Oscar for The Godfather II.

Painting has always been part of Tavoularis’ creative repertoire, but it is only in recent years that he has decided to exhibit. “When working on films, it’s difficult to paint. You have to be detached,” he explains. Still working at 78, Tavoularis sees painting as his future focus. “I saw a Mark Rothko exhibit recently that went in chronological order. The paintings were of colours, two reds and a yellow, before they got darker. Then the last painting was just black. He committed suicide soon after.” He notes that he’s far from that point when surmising his own work: “Bright colours; not soft but strong and simple. Children’s colours; I like toys, little cars, comic books. The paintings are very diverse. They’re flashes of ideas that are difficult to be precise about.”

More info:

Dean Tavoularis: The Magician of Hollywood
March 18 – May 14

Galerie Catherine Houard. 15 rue Saint Benoit 75006 Paris
+33 9 54 20 21 49