Post Mao, Post Now, Post Pao.
abstract from the art catalogue: Post Pao, 2017, Galleria Il Castello.
If we had roughly divided the history of the last three centuries into several parts, we would say that the nineteenth century was the “pre-“ time, the twentieth century was the century of “now” and the millennium is the time of “post-“. The nineteenth century shaped the political, social, philosophical, geographical and economic background of the twentieth century which was one of the most intense and shocking centuries in human history, thus, its legacy, we are struggling with now, is a well known fact: an existential crisis, decayed myths and lost values.
Therefore, it is not by chance that the “post-” prefix has become one of the key paradigms of contemporary times. Ron Inglehart introduced the concept of post-materialism, Jean-François Lyotard along and Gilles Deleuze the concept of poststructuralism, art critics criticize post-pop and post-impressionist works, music critics rewiev post-rock and post-punk albums, the English economist Paul Mason predicts post-capitalism, while the American sociologist Daniel Bell anticipates the arrival of a post-industrial society. And so on, up to the “post” of all “posts”: postmodernism. Peter Drucker (like many others before and after him) has theorized a post-modern world, Peter Greenaway and Quentin Tarantino are making post-modern movies, Jeff Koons - post-modern art, Charles Jencks - post-modern architecture, Slavoj Žižek talks about a post-modern society and Zygmunt Bauman was writing about the discomfort of living in postmodern times.
Faced with this post-immensity, one wonders, how far a man can go to postpone the past? Can be post-post-modernism after postmodernism? Or, if it works as in mathematics, where less for less results in more, to post the post gives pre- as a result? It is impossible to say. Surely, it is not easy to confront last two centuries which were full of inventions and revolutions. Thus, there may exist a transitional passage in which everything is post-everything. As long as it is a passage. As long as the man is not stuck in an eternal and infinitely nostalgic post-future, even before the future comes.
Let’s clear the dusty burden of the past and begin to be pre-something. Let’s stop seeing each other as the end of everything and let’s begin to be the beginning of everything. Crises, changes and socio-economic shocks, that are characterizing our times, are opportunities to turn the page, to turn white pages with stories that have not been written yet. And no one can face this challenge better than an artist. Artists, par excellence, are initiators, are those ones who anticipate trends and transformations, who understand a society and create the vanguard. The artist is never static, he/her is always dynamic, restless, with a head full of question marks. The post-artist is a non-artist. The artist who never changes, who does not experience, who does not kill the daily routine, who does not change directions, and who never goes beyond himself/herself, is not an artist.
In March 2007, I had a pleasure to participate in the exhibition of “Street Art, Sweet Art” in Contemporary Art Pavilion (CAP) in Milan. I was one of the authors of the catalog which has been printed for this occasion. The exhibition was attended by nearly thirty Italian artists, some of them were leading figures in the Street Art in Italy. Being obligated to display street artworks as unstreeted ones (i.e. without the most important element which characterizes and gives the name to this art form: the street), some artists were struggling with obstacles to replicate their works inside the pavilion, thus, they had to create post-street artworks. Others took the opportunity to go beyond what they were doing in the past to create something new. They risked. They left the comfort zone to experiment and question everything. To prove to be an artist who is capable of confronting different contexts, not just “a technician” who is able to express himself only in a specific and interior context. The question is, what makes an artist a true artist, not a person who just “performs”. In fact, a true artist is independent from the technique. Picasso was an artist with a brush as much as with a light bulb.
Ten years ago, there were in CAP Pao’s artworks too. At the time, he was an artist well known in Italy for his urban sculptures and, in particular, for his “penguins.” He could have brought to CAP one of many cement “panettones” which can be found in the city, and paint it. But he had not do it. Instead, he decided to do something different, something completely new. He didn’t exhibit his street-artworks, he displayed a three-dimensional street design painted on canvas as an interior artwork. He invent this concept for the occasion of “Street Art, Sweet Art” exhibition. Thus, he created an artwork which was the beginning of something. Not the end. It was a pre-opera. Not a post-opera. It was the beginning of a new style, a new artistic expression and a new idea. In fact, this new concept is the basis of many artworks which Pao made in last ten years.
Now, let’s talk about the exhibition “Post-Pao”, as this catalog is a part of it. Its subtitle should be like this: “Post-Truth, Post to Facebook and Lost Places.” I think that it’s a good summary of all concepts that Pao is expressing in his artworks. We find the post-truth as the merger between Communism and Capitalism of the post-Mao China in paintings such as “KPCC”, which combines the stylized face of a colonel Harland Sanders, the symbol of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the stylized face of Marx, the symbol of the Soviet and Chinese communism. So this is how we find “posts” everywhere, consumed and produced all around the world, Facebook’s ones and those which we see in Pao’s paintings, i.e. “Like For Your Right”, in which the clenched fist of a fighter is replaced by a thumb’s-up, an icon of the popular social network. Finally, there are Lost Places. Those that cannot be found via Google Maps or GPS. Those, which can be reached only by traveling on dirt and long roads which nobody wants to choose as they seem to lead to nowhere, but still, they are the only way to discover something new and wonder about the world around us.
In defense of a foggy past.
abstract from the art catalogue: Miaz Brothers, 2017, Wunderkammern.
In The Entire History of You, an episode of the television series Black Mirror, the creators imagine a future in which people have a tiny computer installed behind their ear that, from the moment they are born, records everything that they see, do, or feel. This technology allows for the playback and sharing, even with other people, of any given memory through a process called re-do. In this way, the past becomes something clear, objective, and always present. Gone are misunderstandings, lies, mysteries, or vague memories. All it takes is a small click of the remote, and reality speaks for itself.
Though this scenario might seem dystopian or imaginary, is a future in which the past is crystal clear really still that far off? Perhaps not. My son Leone, who is just over 2 years old, already has a digital folder containing over 2,000 pictures, archived by date and place. When he is 20 and wants to see what he looked like when he was a year, three months and four days old, all he’ll have to do is open the folder and select the date. Every day billions of people share thousands of photographs, videos, and musings on their daily lives over platforms like Facebook, thus contributing to the creation of a future in which our past will be increasingly present, written and indelible.
And it is precisely in light of such an objective and well-documented world that the beauty and genius of the Miaz Brothers’ work emerges. If, in the past, a detailed portrait of oneself, painted on canvas by a talented portraitist, was a luxury that only nobles could afford, today the originality of painting lies not so much in the details as much as in the abstraction.
Art is no longer an instrument of objectivity but rather of subjectivity. A tool for making that which is real subjective, and not that which is objective unreal.
In the portraits of the Miaz Brothers, the true portraitist is not the artist with his technique, but the observer and his imagination. It is no longer about looking, but rather perceiving and interpreting. In a world that aims to construct an analytic past, present, and future based on detail and the technological reproduction of reality, where every fragment can be decoded according to standards that are closer to those of a machine than those of a human, the Miaz Brothers annihilate detail. They annihilate the mechanicalness of the portrait. In a world in which ever-more sophisticated algorithms are capable of mapping the entire global population thanks to automated systems of facial recognition, the Miaz Brothers turn the subjects of their portraits into an enigma, bestowing unto them an increasingly precious gift: anonymity.
Who is Lady C? Who are these Old Men and the Young Ladies depicted? What are their names, their birthdates – where do they live? Where did they study? What mutual friends do they share with us? What did they do yesterday? What are their stories? We can’t possibly know. But we can imagine. We can create their story. Because the works of the Miaz Brothers aren’t portraits, but mirrors instead. The portrait is no longer about the person depicted, but instead deals with the idea that the person observing it – the spectator – projects onto the portrait. And this, in summary, is art’s primary goal; art does not arise to give answers, but to elicit questions.
abstract from the art catalogue: Geometric Bang, 2016, Independent.
Geometric Bang seems like an oxymoron. The rationality of geometry collides with the irrationality of explosion. A mix of shapes and colors, poetry and nature, stories and faces. His art hits gigantic buildings, lightless underpasses, narrow and long walls that look like vertical highways, urban objects, broken windows, grills, streets and shutters. Every surface comes alive under the colors of Geometric Bang.
While I’m writing these words I’m in Tokyo, one of the most incredible cities I have ever been to. Every corner, every district, every street is a city itself. From the eclectic Shinjuku to the electric Akihabara. From the chaotic Shibuya to the hypnotic lights of Roppongi’s night. You can feed your soul among the shadows of Meiji Jingu or feed your body at the Nishiki Market area where you will find hundreds of restaurants and shops selling everything. Tokyo is an explosion of inspirations and cultural bias. And so is Geometric Bang. His works are like tapestries on the wall: gigantic patterns full of life and colors that turn the city into a story where everyone can find their own epilogue.
The first time we worked together was a couple of years ago; it was November and I was leading a project for Campari. I asked Geometric Bang to paint a great wall inspired by the style of Italian artist Ugo Nespolo. The result was amazing. Geometric Bang created an artwork that compared two generations in a natural context that evoked the theme that time goes by.
After that project I had the opportunity to work with him again and to better understand his artistic thinking. All his work is based on continuous research on colors and everyday life’s characters, plants, and objects; it generates two-dimensional illustrations that are easy to see but profound to read.
Deep simplicity is another distinguishing feature of Geometric Bang’s artwork. True to philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s famous words, Geometric Bang uses common shapes to tell uncommon things.
His works are made of shapes, colors and natural elements that even a six-year-old child could immediately understand, but they tell stories and tales that take time to be read and fully enjoyed. You can spend hours in front of Geometric Bang’s murals, staring and trying to catch all the dialogues that flow between the artwork and the environment where it was created. Every Geometric Bang artwork is a dialogue with the territory. And that turns every artwork into something alive, something that changes with the changing around it. So the point is not what he creates but why, where, when, or how he creates. And that, in my opinion, is the real essence of art. Regarding art, the object is always the less interesting part; what makes an object an art object is everything that surrounds the object.
The question is not, “What is art?” but “When is art?” or “Where is art?” And the art of Geometric Bang is mostly where the people are: in the streets. I am one of those who think that art should stay in the streets, among people. I think artists have a duty: take art to everyone, because everyone has the right to live it every day. That’s why I think street art is the most natural way of doing art, and that’s why I consider Geometric Bang a pure artist.
Urban Solid: Unusual Solids
abstract from the art catalogue: Urban Solid, 2016, Independent.
In August 2013 a journalist heads an article about Urban Solid saying: “Mannequin found in a square. Is it Street Art?”. However, are we sure that, that mannequin – which in realty was not a mannequin but instead a sculpture – was Street Art? This is not an easy question and the journalist certainty in defining Urban Solid’s Art in that way is astonishing. But, let’s start from the beginning: what is Street Art? Can, nowadays, a definition of Street Art exist? In my opinion, it cannot. It is too premature. Street Art is a movement still too young, still too alive, to be entrapped into a label or into an artistic, historical or social category.
Personally, since I started dealing with Street Art, I have heard it being called in many different ways. Urban Painting, Graffitism, Tag, Writing, Urban Art, Public Art, Bedaub, Urban Pop Up, Stencil Art, Post-Graffitism, Vandalistic Act, Spray-Art, Iper-Realism, Muralism and Post-Muralism.
Nevertheless, none of these definitions can fully express Street Art essence. So then, let’s start from the only thing that I can say with confidence about Street Art: Street Art is a movement. And this is not irrelevant. Or better said, it is not for everyone. It is enough to look at any cognitive map that synthesize last century art evolution, to understand that, from the eighties on, art has passed from being a people aggregator – let’s think about all the groups that from the Futuristic to the New-Expressionists have characterized the ninetieth century – in being a inhomogeneous crowd of single personalities.
Both in arts and in society it has gone from the paradigm we-the people to I-myself. However, within a world that always more seems to favor the individual rather than the collectivity, the personality of the individual in respect to the group plurality, Street Art is the only artistic movement that merges and incorporate, taking back Art to its original meaning. A global art that, from the southest point of the Latin America to the northest suburbs of Russia, merges people, artists, styles and thoughts through a single language and a single purpose, to bring art to everyone because everyone has the right to live it.
Therefore, if this is the background and this is art and Street Art purpose, then I can say that Urban Solid belong to this global movement. I want to say it, because I follow their actions among the streets since years. And I want to say it, because within this movement they have given an original and unusual contribution. They have not limited them self in reproducing what has already been done among the rest of the world, but they have added to their art a distinctive feature. That of the solid, of the sculpture, fusing different disciplines in a single style.
And then there is another reason. Many have tried to define what art is and what it is not. But only few have succeeded. One of the most effective definitions, in my opinion, was the one given by the British artist Damien Hirst. When asked “Mr. Hirst, what is art for you?” the artist, who has managed to sell a white shark carcass in a formaldehyde tank for 12 million dollars, replied: “Great art is what makes you stop while turning a corner and saying – fuck, what is that?-“. Personally, I think this sentence contains not only art’s basic formula but, above all, Street Art’s one.
Street Art is that thing that, while you’re walking on the street, in your car or while you’re running through the city streets, it jumps on you, unexpectedly, and makes you say, “What is this?”
What is this sculpture? What is this painting? What is its message? What is it communicating me? In a word, Street Art is the thing that drives you to ask you questions. And, as Picasso, another twentieth century icon, was always saying, art is not meant to give answers but to generate questions. Art stimulates thoughts. Art can shock, irritate or annoy. Right, that is art’s game, everything is accepted providing it is able to excite, to trigger reactions. Positive or negative. Art that leaves people indifferent is not art.
And even here I want to say that Urban Solid fall into that artists category whose works just make people stop and say “fuck, what is it?”. They did it with the installation “W l’Italia” in Piazza Cadorna in Milan. They did it with the sculpture “Italy made in China”. They did it with all the ears and noses hung around our country. Even when they left a pallet full of gold bars (fake) in front of the Stock Exchange in Milan. And they did it also with one of their most famous piece, “Adam”.
Adam is a life-size plaster figure of a naked boy with sunglasses and a large fig leaf that covers the intimacy. Urban Solid glued it to half of Italy walls. Sometimes coloring it. And other times leaving him raw. A simple work, primal – both in the subject (Adam, the first man), and the form (sculpture, considered a declension of the first art) – but, because of its primordial aspect affects and surprises people.
The reactions to this sculpture were so strong that in June 2014 a woman was thrown herself against the Adam installed near Corso Buenos Aires in Milan hammering him. This gesture, undoubtedly excessive – as excessive art must be – complements and enriches the sculpture. It makes it alive in its destruction. Because each Street Art work generates, grows and dies through a dialogue, sometimes even violent, with the community and the environment in which it is born. Without this kind of dialogue we cannot speak of Street Art.
Blek LeRat and the revenge of the fishing boats
abstract from the art catalogue: BlekLeRat, 2016, Wunderkammern.
On July 27, 1981, the President of the United States Ronald Reagan revealed a new political economy to the entire country in which he reduced the maximum tax rate by a third. The metaphor that he utilized was a gem of political propaganda: “A rising tide lifts all boats; billionaires’ yachts and fishing boats alike”. And with that phrase, the eighties began. Years of financial euphoria, speculation without limits, the wealthy 1% who became increasingly rich, and the 99% that chased an American dream brought to excess. A drugged society in which everything was deregulated: the economy, capital, markets, customs and institutions. “Buy like there’s no tomorrow” was the dominant ideology that brought it all together, from Pinochet’s Chile to Thatcher’s England to Xiao-Ping’s China.
In that same summer of ‘81, in which Reagan became the defender of made-in-the-US neoliberalism, a young French artist, who would later be known throughout the world as Blek le Rat, began drawing black rats on the dirty walls throughout the streets of Paris. His stencils didn’t have the bright colors or broad shoulders of American legends. They didn’t invite people to consume single-serving products and they didn’t sell glossy beauty on the cover of Vogue. They were small expressions of real life that had nothing to do with Republican propaganda. While the world bid farewell to the Eighties with a saccharine smile, Blek le Rat did so with the silhouette of a rat, cut out of cardboard and impressed upon the wall with black spray paint. Nothing was further from the collective imagination, and nothing was closer to what art should be. Blek le Rat is not a politician, he isn’t an entrepreneur, and he isn’t even in show business. He is an artist. And an artist has a duty to go against the grain, to question the status quo.
When speaking about art, there are two kinds of artists. There are artists who ride trends and artists who precede them. There are artists who are cool in their time and those who are the fathers of the future. Blek le Rat belongs to this second category; what most artists do today he did 30 years ago. It’s easy to talk about underground street and urban art culture. How many relatively famous artists are there who use the stencil as a tool of expression, and street art as a message of protest and rebellion? A lot. A ton. Street art, in all its iterations, has become a global movement spanning from the southern-most part of South America to the northern-most point of Russia. But in 1981 this wasn’t the case. In those days, there were the ready-made Koons-esque neons in the galleries, and Keith Haring’s radiant kids in the streets. There was no space for the black rodents of Blek le Rat. Today, however, the fashion has changed. The stencils of Banksy dictate the trends of the art market, and in galleries street art is celebrated as a turn-of-the-century movement.
What hasn’t changed is Blek le Rat’s style. An immediate, simple style where what matters isn’t the technique in and of itself, but the message. The idea. The content. In the digital era, anyone is capable printing a monochromatic graphic, cutting it out, and making a stencil with which to stain the city walls. And so many have felt justified in doing so.
But being an artist doesn’t mean knowing how to make a piece of work, but rather knowing how to imagine it. The artist goes beyond the means of expression. Picasso was just as much of an artist with a pencil in hand as with a lamp, a block of clay, or a bicycle. If an artist’s success were measured in technical ability, he or she wouldn’t be an artist, but rather a technician. The success of an artist, however, is measured in sensitivity, in the ability to see beyond what everyone else sees. Blek le Rat is often cited as being the inventor of the applied stencil in street art. But this is superficial and reductive. The stencil is a technique. What Blek le Rat really invented is a new way of making art. A method that is today at the peak of its artistic and commercial expression. Blek le Rat’s innovation lies in his thinking, in having created immediate, dirty, irreverent art which reaches everyone because everyone has the right to experience it.
And then there’s a final element that defines Blek le Rat, starting with his first stencil in 1981 to his latest works: the propagandistic push of his art. I personally feel lucky, because in my professional life I’ve dealt first with art then with marketing. And when you see it from this perspective, you can easily recognize that marketing is nothing more than a low-cost version of art. For centuries, communication was a privilege for the few popes, emperors, and kings who could afford to pay an artist to tell the world their stories and their values. Cesare employed the Gallic Wars; Ottaviano Augusto the Aeneid; Pope Julius II Michelangelo; Napoleon Jacques-Louis David; and so on, up to the modern propaganda of Edward Bernays and the media propaganda of Ronald Reagan, which utilized films like Rocky in the Eighties to win the Cold War and to spread the legend of a strong, invincible America.
Propaganda moves through art and culture. And art cannot exclude propaganda. Every artistic expression of humankind, from the Paleolithic Age to today, is first and foremost a form of communication that follows the founding principle of propaganda: don’t stop at informing, but rather persuade, involve, and touch emotionally. Psychosomatic phenomena like Stendhal syndrome are the expression of the captivating power of art, its ability to enmesh the viewer. I’ve never heard of a commercial for detergent or for a television causing someone to suffer tachycardia, dizziness, vertigo, and hallucinations. A work of art yes, however.
The 20th century showed us the political, commercial, and psychological power of propaganda. Unchecked power in the wrong hands can create monsters. A power for which every artist should feel fully responsible. I’ll close paraphrasing a poem that Vladimir Majakowskij wrote in 1917 after Ten Days That Shook the World which led to the Bolsheviks’ victory in the October Revolution: Do not withdraw to your rooms, Art; remain a friend to the kids of the street.
Black Hole Fun
abstract from the art catalogue: Pao: Black Hole Fun, 2015, Independent.
In WarGames, the 1983 American Cold War science-fiction film directed by John Badham, David J. Lightman is a young hacker, son of the post oil crisis America, who unwittingly accesses WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), a United States military supercomputer programmed to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. Lightman gets WOPR, or «Joshua», to run a nuclear war simulation, originally believing it to be a computer game. The simulation causes a national nuclear missile scare and nearly starts World War III. The computer indeed stages a massive Soviet first strike with hundreds of missiles, submarines, and bombers. Believing the attack to be genuine, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) prepares to retaliate. But David convinces military officials to cancel the second strike and rule out the non-existent attack. Joshua tries to launch the missiles, however, using a brute force attack to obtain the launch code. Without humans in the silos as a safeguard, the computer will trigger a mass launch. All attempts to log in and order Joshua to cancel the countdown fail, and all weapons will launch if the computer is disabled. Instead David directs the computer to play tic-tac-toe against itself. This results in a long string of draws, forcing the computer to learn the concept of futility. Joshua obtains the missile code but before launching, it cycles through all the nuclear war scenarios it has devised, finding they too all result in stalemates. Having discovered the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (“WINNER: NONE”), the computer concludes that nuclear warfare is a strange game in which the only winning move is not to play. Joshua then offers to play a nice game of chess, and relinquishes control of NORAD and the missiles.
Thirty years on, the movie still holds a big truth we all should be concerned about and which is at the basis of our exhibition. The distance between what we do and the consequences of our actions is constantly growing. Like modern David J. Lightman, every day we sit at our desks facing our computers without realizing what is behind our amusement, or which the impact our actions have on the world. Just think about chain production of food which has become a mass product. We passed from being the direct producers of our food, therefore having a direct awareness of its origin, to a point were people have become unaware of the food they are eating and do not have the slightest idea where it come from and increasing the distance between food and food eaters.
We are totally unaware of the depth of what lies around us. Pao’s Black Hole Fun is about each one of us. Either we become aware of it or it will end up swallowing us up.
Luckily, art can be of help. The main task of art is make us open our eyes, show us what we, non-artisit-beings, cannot see. Sometimes shocking, other times irritating, never losing sight of that communicative aspect every artist has. As for Schopenhauer, the artists sees what the others are not able to see and brings it back to us as performances, paintings, sculptures or, as Pao, a pop mix merging art, design and creativity. The way he sees things in ordinary things is is what makes him an absolute genius, something no one else can see. From urban landscapes of a city like Milan, many people see road humps and ridges shaped like a panettone and everybody sees them just for what they are, whilst Pao saw a penguin and launched one of the most interesting forms of public art in Italy. And he did not stop there, of course! He saw Arcimboldo’s portrait of Rudolf the Second as a silos in the Piemonte countryside. He turned traffic lights into palms, lamp-post into daisies and lollipops, water pumps into dogs, baskets into pelicans, sidewalks into slices of lemon, manholes into windows, barriers into zebras, chairs into open mouths, curbstones into sharks and public toilets finally became Campbell’s soup cans.
The most important task of art is to open our eyes and show us what we - non-artistic-beings - are not able to see among the flux of our ordinary life.
In this exhibition, Pao tells us about a fat society, ironically represented as a series of four donuts which deceive the observer’s perspective making concave look convex. He has fun turning two-dimensional things into imaginary three dimensioned ones. He plays with perspective and makes people sink in whirlpools of black and white. He juxtaposes nautral and bucolic landscapes to a full colored chaos as in Pacific Trash Vortex, where a whirlpool of trash with made of made-up brands seems to spurt towards us. Black Hole Fun is an ironic and deep consideration of our times, making us go beyond the iridescent light of our monitor to see what hides behind it.
abstract from the art catalogue: Chained, 2015, Independent.
Ever since I first became involved with Street Art, I’ve heard it referred to in many different ways. Urban Painting, Graffiti, Tagging, Writing, Urban Art, Public Art, Staining, Urban Pop-Up, Stencil Art, Post-Grafittism, an Act of Vandalism, Spray-Art, Hyper-realism, Muralism or Post-Muralism. Yet none of these definitions manages to express the full essence of Street Art. Because Street Art is one of the most lively and dynamic movements of contemporary art today. And movements, by definition, can be neither still nor defined.
To put it in black and white, Street Art will be viewed as the turn-of-the-century artistic movement. That which, more than any other, succeeded in anticipating and interpreting the phenomena of our time, with inclusion and participation being the foremost concepts.
In a world that seems ever more destined to put the individual before the collective, a single personality above the majority of the group, Street Art is the only artistic movement that unites and includes, taking art back to its original meaning.
Art isn’t born as an expression of a single individual, but as the expression of an entire community. Art isn’t meant to be a cryptic dialogue reserved for a select few, but rather as an instrument of communication for the masses, one that addresses everyone.
Every time we see a work of art on a wall, or along the streets of our city, and we ask ourselves how an artist might have decided to paint on the street instead on a canvas, we get it wrong. The question we should be asking, today, is not why man started painting on the street, but why man might have stopped painting on the street. In this light, the concept of a “chain reaction” is perfect for defining Street Art: a global bond that unites people, artists, styles and schools of thought, from the southernmost tip of South America to the northernmost lands of Russia, through a single language with a single objective: to bring art to everyone, because everyone has a right to experience it.
But the beauty of Street Art’s chain doesn’t stop there. Each work, be it a sculpture, a drawing, or an installation, does not simply exist but is fed, grows, thanks to a dialogue with the people with whom, or for whom, it is created. We seem to have forgotten that progress never happens in a single direction, but only through a dialectical equilibrium of all parts, where each element of the chain enriches the entire system.
Chained is therefore “Made in Chain”, a project of domino-effects set off by a group of artists who, in turn, asked other artists to join the creative process, bringing together diverse styles and materials. Outside, the city, the facades of buildings and the urban context; inside, the canvases, the sculptures and the walls of the Hangar in Via Amari.
All of the artists who participated in this project have different backgrounds, styles, and expressions, but they are brought together by the desire to bring their art to the street as well. 2501 combines walls and canvas paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, videos and documentaries to create axonometric vertigos and minimalistic geometries. In the art of Atomo, there is Punk, Grafitti, the violence of ‘70s Milan and the vibrant colors of the ‘80s; his collages are born from stencils, and political life mixes with the professional one. Borondo uses walls as canvases and vice versa, and his pictorial art is simultaneously unsettling and moving, somber and luminous, so as to create bodies that are light in their lines but deep in their features. BR1 aims to hit and to bring to light the contradictions of the capitalist model with bright colors and an immediate, communicative style that combines western themes with middle-eastern symbols. C215 uses stencils and his subjects are interconnected to the urban and cultural fabric of the places where his pieces come to life, in which they are unexpectedly experienced by those who stumble across them while passing through the metro, the streets, and the buildings of the city. With Max Rippon calligraphy, typography, painting, digital work and sculpture come together in the name of a call to advertising that spans his oeuvre; his works are messages yelled to the city in large letters on gigantic walls. Using large, black, anthropomorphic silhouettes, Sam3 tells stories and legends; his “shadows” are a reflection of the human condition and its meaning throughout the world, hanging in the balance between the poetry and irony. Sten Lex created a genre, the “stencil poster” and brought it around the world; through a fusion of stencils, photography, and graphics they create monumental, even ephemeral works that transform with the passing of time and with the shifting of the urban surface. The art of Edoardo Tresoldi cannot be extracted from the place where it is created; his site-specific sculptures are single frames in a story born around them like a 3-dimensional photograph reconstructed through a tight metallic mesh.
All of this is Chained – a concatenation of artists who explore the role of man on a planet that is also ours but that does not belong to us. A planet on which progress and technological advancement lead us to see the world from and anthropocentric perspective – one where it seems that nature exists solely to satisfy our needs, and where plants and animals are seen as possessions at the disposal of a humanity which is excuses for exploiting them in the name of progress.
In the city that hosts Expo2015 and is the spokes model for a key theme of our future – Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” – it is inevitable that our reflection will also extend to another chain: the food chain. We have moved from a school of thought in which man directly produces the food that he eats, to an extreme in which man is a consumer who is unaware of where and how the food he eats is produced, exponentially increasing the separation between the object consumed (food), and the subject who consumes (mankind). With their works, 2501, Atomo, Borondo, BR1, C215, Max Rippon, Sam3, Sten Lex and Edoardo Tresoldi have set off a chain reaction, and now it is up to us to take part.
abstract from the art catalogue: MondoTondo, 2014, Skira. Buy catalogue.
PAO is a visionary of surfaces, an alchemist of colour, someone who amalgamates Murakami’s pop surrealism with Keith Haring’s streetwise bluntness through imaginative paradoxes marked by a constant irony typical of postmodernism. His works are a giddying form of pop which, as much on the street as in the studio, creates new forms of interaction and situational interpretations of everyday life.
PAO was born in 1977, the year of punk and of Star Wars. While the Sex Pistols shook the British classifications with their first album, “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols”, the whole world was being shaken by the most popular saga of all times and by its most famous icon, Luke Skywalker.
Two diametrically opposed worlds that, for a short moment in history, cohabited, enlarged and upset the historical concepts of pop culture. The profundity of this moment when everything seemed an iconic hallucination originated by a new age media has characterized PAO’s dna from his very first street works. A brilliant distortion of colours that leaves the viewer disarmed in front of these astute alterations and visionary perspectives. I have known PAO since 2002 when we met for the first time during the second edition of the Illegal Art Show happening; since then what has struck me most about his art is its constant challenging of the surface and his ability to transform matter into something ironical and animated. With this expressive veil, PAO has translated the feelings of anonymous urban objects by transforming grey bollards into penguins, sleeping policemen into dolphins, road lamps into white daisies, traffic lights into palm trees and public toilets into Campbell cans.
For PAO the relationship between the artist and pictorial surfaces has become a stimulus for creating new dialogues with the viewer and for going beyond the two-dimensional depth of the canvas. In this development the work titled Il Velo di Maya (2007, acrylic on wood, 300 ✕ 200 cm) is significant. It was shown for the first time in PAC, Milan, as part of the show Street Art Sweet Art in March 2007. For many of the artists invited to take part in it, this exhibition marked a critical point that required a necessary rethinking – both conceptual and stylistic – about the theme of their own art once stripped of the street factor that had until then been their common matrix. It was an extremely intense moment that I had the pleasure of constantly experiencing as I was the curator of the event.
It allowed me the possibility of glimpsing those who, among the invited artists, had the necessary sensibility and depth for keeping their art alive even away from the road. Three years later I can confirm the sensation that Il Velo di Maya gave me the first time I saw it. PAO had also managed to transfer onto canvas all the magic, atmosphere and forceful interaction with the viewer that he had managed to create in his long period of working in the street. This is his dna: an ironic and constant dialogue with the public that sinks the subjects of his work under the surface and plunges them into a third dimension. In order to enjoy a work by PAO it is necessary to get near to it, taste the colours as you would with a canvas by Van Gogh or in a feature film by Miyazaki and lose yourself in PAO’s abstract geometries and their sensual rotundity. Enjoy yourselves.
Mine: Self Explosion
abstract from the art catalogue: MINE, 2013, Zel.
Contemporary art cannot overlook it’s irreverent, surging, irritating, unrepeatable, irregular, irrational, and busting nature which makes it, first of all, a living and vibrating entity, present in the streets, and above all among people. Art is not made just to be seen, but to be lived and participated. If art could speak, as is often the case, only with art-world people, it would lose its sense of being. Art is a huge explosion of self which affects everyone. A shock within the system. The only true form of global revolution. Because art belongs to everyone and is for everyone. The Dadaists said that in art the rules are like medicine, to believe this one has to be ill. I agree, we cannot put rules on the right of every human being to express his ‘self’ through art. I believe in art and in the revolutionary potential of an artist.
The use of the word ‘MINE’, in English refers to the personal mine-me, the very essence of a person, his or her private self, the only really own. And ‘MINE’ in Italian refers to a land or seamine, a metaphor for the explosive personality of an artist as ungovernable as it is visionary. Because this is the true essence of an artist. His or her deep sensitivity. An artist is like a doorway which opens and sees before anyone else the depth of things and is able to explain them to the masses so as everyone can open their eyes. It’s not possible to be a part-time artist. The essence of being an artist is something which irradiates life as a whole without alternatives. An artist is not a product of himself or herself. An artist is being one’s own very life. An artist is always himself. If one thinks of an artist such as Salvador Dalì, his life can be compared to a slap in the face of daily life, a continuous celebration of himself and his world. The strength with which he mocked bourgeois society, which venerated him like a god, while he dirtied a sheet with pen and black acrylic is the synthesis of genius. An arrogant genius, and for this very reason, total, without limits, with a power to cross every institution, every commonplace. To challenge oneself without compromises with the future as one’s only conviction, to paraphrase The Clash or there will be glory or there will be death.
It is through the eccentric personality of an artist that art will return to play out its most important role. To communicate. To surprise. To shock. Because to shock is one of contemporary art’s most current concepts. A key theme to understand the dynamics which dictated the paradigms from Warhol to Hirst. The shark in formaldehyde by Hirst was created to shock. The images of prostitutes in Teheran by the Iranian artist Shirin Fakhim were made to shock. Catellan’s boy with a drum, the gigantic sculptures by Ron Mueck or the perverse works by the American artist Paul McCarthy or by the Chapman Brothers, are created to shock. To have the courage to use one’s sensitivity to change the world! Govern one’s own Explosion of Self. What better moment than this to do so. Man does not, unfortunately, appear to have learned anything from the past. On one side of the world pieces of a wall are kept as fetishes reminding one of a shameful history, which we swear will never happen again, while on the other side of the world even higher walls are being built as though the lessons of history have simply broken-up before the arrogance of today. Its only by looking at the future that man can learn to change the present. And only artists have the necessary folly to see into the future. To conclude, with a citation from “The Warriors” by Walter Hill, if you are an artist come out and play because this is your moment.
In this call I expect to review artistic projects which are capable of slapping everyday life. I expect ideas before objects. A work of art is not an object. A work of art is a thought. A thought which can be translated into a painting on canvas as much as in a performance, a video or an installation. What is important is that art is not emptied of it’s very artistic essence. The concept that generates it. I ask you not to simply send me a work, but also a brief text explaining your thoughts behind it, and why you created it. In making my selections I will not lend so much importance to its aesthetic values, rather its value as a public work, its ability to communicate with everyone and place itself within people’s daily lives triggering thoughts and reflections.
abstract from the art catalogue: Intralci, 2011, Skira.
For Nespoon art is a pure and boundless love for the territory. Every action of hers, every mark and every expression of her art have the aim of appreciating what surrounds her. Everything becomes part of a huge work of art where the context amalgamates with her gestures. Nespoon entices. She constructs lace canvases between the branches of trees; she sculpts clay works between the cracks of walls forgotten by time.
She says: “When I create I need to feel what I am working on. I need to spark off an intimate relationship with the surface that I am modifying. It is not enough to see. I have to go beyond sight. Immerse myself in the material. Touch its essence.” Hers are jewels wrought for the town. She has always been an artist and a street artist by vocation. “Art inside a gallery is too boring to be considered a living art. Art has to inspire the perfume of people. It must once again transmit real feelings felt by everyone.”
Emotion is one of the key themes of Nespoon’s art: emotion as the inspiration behind her art, and the emotion shared when her art is unexpectedly appreciated by those who come across it by the wayside.In the streets of the town centre, on a monument, on a tree trunk or in one of the many places that stimulate the imaginative creations of this Polish artist. Often her interventions are so elegant and respectful that they amalgamate with the territory and to see them is almost a discovery, an unexpected surprise. The form is studied for the surface on which it will be realized. The colours are inspired by the surrounding tonality, and the position is the result of inspiration or, rather, of an overall vision where the work and the territory are considered as a single element. Her work as a political activist also follows this path. Her constant and untiring fight against the media pollution of urban advertising. For years her art has continued with an important campaign for increasing awareness of the dangers of this urban advertising which, like a disease, is destroying the beauty of her hometown, Warsaw.
This is a social aim that is perfectly in harmony with Nespoon’s artistic context and philosophy, someone who, both as an artist and as an activist, battles for improving the territory and for defending its natural beauty. Her first street art works arose precisely from the necessity to create something beautiful for the city’s future citizens: the children. As she has said: “Street Art for Kids was a project that began without thinking, just like that, like a great deal of my art. I leave home, see a place and begin to imagine how it might be with my art. Many artists stop and think what to do. I don’t.”
This same instinctive energy lies at the heart of all of what the artist herself calls Aesthetic Guerrilla, a strong and almost strident phrase, but which perfectly summons up the delicacy and, at the same time, the vehemence of her art. This is a balance that is highly reminiscent of the famous works of an artist who was a key figure for Nespoon’s artistic maturity: the British artist Banksy and, in particular, his warrior holding a bunch of flowers. What for Banksy are flowers for Nespoon are enormous pieces of lace inspired by those produced in her hometown and that she paints on walls, houses and the blank façades of all the world in order to enhance and amalgamate the place’s history with her artistic and philosophical ideas.
abstract from the art catalogue: Intralci, 2011, Skira. Buy catalogue.
The Franciacorta region flows. It is a flow of hills, landscapes, ideas, enthusiasms and, above all, people. A flow that over the centuries has been reinvented and renewed and that, thanks to the people who generated it, has been capable of renewing itself without impediment. It is quite easy to understand this flow. You only need to wander through its roads, myths and history. Or else just stand still, quite motionless, inside the monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa, in Provaglio d’Iseo, and let yourself be enveloped by over 700 years of history summed up by the top of a hill in front of the Torbiere del Sebino. A pagan art that mixes gothic façades with Renaissance painting. Eighteenth-century altars in front of walls dating from Romanesque times and that recount medieval myths and stories that become lost in the baroque chapel in front of the monastery’s entrance. The flow of art and history comes together to tell us of the past of a land that is first and foremost alive. A land that has never stood still. A land able to adapt itself, to change and reinterpret itself.
And Franciacorta as we know it today is the result of the involvement and enthusiasm of the many wine growers who, following the intuition of the wine expert Franco Ziliani who corked his first bottle of Franciacorta wine in 1961, have transformed an area too arid for agriculture into the ideal territory for wine production. One of the stages of the unstoppable flow that makes this land unique and fascinating. To be inspired was completely natural for each of the artists invited to take part in this project. From distant legends to the Torbiere landscapes, by way of the myths about the origins of the name ‘Franciacorta’, the monasteries, churches, vineyards, wine cellars and Lake Iseo. The flow of Franciacorta has been transformed into an irresistible flood of creativity that each artist has translated in a different way. In fact, it was important for the whole project that the territory was not only a source of inspiration but also its natural container. The possibility of setting up a workshop where the artists could work, in an old wine cellar on Via Ignazio Berlucchi in Borgonato was the completion of an interaction that began and matured within the same territory. It was total immersion: we breathed, experienced and ate up this land for ten whole days and the art produced is the most genuine witness to this.
The ‘intralci’ project, in fact, began with the aim of creating an art experience en plein air where the fusion of art and the territory was complete. Where art could become the means for capitalizing on a territory that was, in turn, both the means and end of this project. The artists have worked on and within Franciacorta after having had the possibility of being immersed in the territory and – by interpreting it, marking it and making it their own – to create in complete freedom. By following this idea I have, not by chance, chosen ten artists from different countries who had a natural and instinctive tendency to work with the territory. Even though they each follow a different trend in art, they all use the public context as a dialectical element necessary for the creation of their own art.
From Bros’s street art to the video installations by the Serbian artist Vladimir Jankovic, the visual poetry of ivan, the Renaissance-expressive painting by Giovanni Manzoni Piazzalunga, Salvatore Benintende’s pop, the light calligraphy by the French artist Julien Breton, the lace by the Polish artist Nespoon, DEM’s visual alchemies, the photographs by Pietro Masturzo and the liquid perspectives of Paolo Bordino. They have all made their own interpretation of the territory with every means. In fact, as curator I wanted to create a large installation consisting of ten works where the viewer can interact and “have to do with” Franciacorta by translating it into a work of art structured by visual and sensorial implications.
An idea inspired by the more universal and Heidegger-like concept of being there, of being thrown into the world or, as in this case, into the territory. Indeed, I think that art is the best way for creating this shared emotion. An experience that, thanks to art, allows us to have a deeper vision of Franciacorta. It is for this reason that even in the show’s title I have searched for a new term which might unite both the concept of being on a territory and of creating art. This led to the name ‘intralci’.
Intralci like the tralci, the vine branches, that interweave and represent, by way of a metonym, the whole Franciacorta area, and the intralci, or contemporary art’s entanglements, which are part of everyday life and which create new stimuli and new points of view.
Bros’s work in Franciacorta was an entanglement for the territory; ivan allowed himself to be entangled by the area by writing poems throughout the length and breadth of Franciacorta; Nespoon wove her lace through vine branches to create an artistic entanglement that hindered the passage through the vineyards; Julien Breton has drawn entanglements of light in the night air; Pietro Masturzo photographed farm workers in the midst of the vine branches and the entanglements of the tractors along the roads of Franciacorta.
abstract from the art catalogue: Intralci, 2011.
I don’t know why, but every time I find myself in front of a work by DEM the Marx Brothers come to mind and, what is more, the splendid metaphor by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek who considered Chico, Graucho and Harpo as the closest reflection of the triple partition of the human psyche (the ego, the super ego and the id).
DEM’s works always enchant me, in the most genuine sense of enchantment as something in which to lose oneself:
a labyrinth of quotations, stories, myths and abysses. His linear and minimal aesthetics almost cry out against the depths of their content. Cryptic images, dizzying quotations and unreal characters are the very essence of his working process and hold in perfect balance the rational and irrational. The real and the unreal. We are tempted to ask what came first in his work: reality or imagination? Is it the imagination that inspires reality or is it reality that inspires the imagination? It is difficult to give an answer to these questions without running the risk of losing the spontaneous appreciation of DEM’s images.
I think that the most just definition is that of a storyteller. An artist who translates reality into a fairytale or, alternatively, who puts back the fairytale of reality onto canvas, walls or sculpture. His artistic narration is, first and foremost, a double game with himself in which drawing becomes the concrete representation of a vision derived from reality which then follows paths and ramifications that are completely fantastic.
For DEM art, as much for its creator as for those who appreciate it, always has the essential aim of exorcising the demons of society, liberating its purest aspects and presenting it again in the direct and universal language of visual art.
This is what has led the artist to paint in the streets ever since he was a child: he painted among the people and the roads in order to express himself at first hand and to share his demons with everybody, also in order to free himself from them. This is an almost cathartic art that has impelled the artist to paint throughout the world and on any kind of surface. In one of his most recent works, created in Wroclaw, Poland, DEM painted an enormous mural in which he shows the humanization of nature; the body consists of leaves and the head is interwoven with deep roots. In this work there is as much of DEM’s aesthetics as his philosophy, starting from the minimal strokes and the flat and bright colours that fascinate the passers-by and make them turn round and look back as though in front of a huge sun.
Another increasingly important key to DEM’s artistic dialectic is the theme of nature. Having started out as a graffiti artist used to dealing with an urban fabric and a mechanical society that forces us to live far distant from our roots, he found in nature and its dynamics the right dialectic balance. As he has said:
“I have always been fascinated by abandoned factories, they give me both a sense of poetry and of sadness, like the wrecks of contemporary society. In my career in art I have painted factories, houses and whole buildings, always in the attempt to mix together symbols, colours and geometric forms harmonized between themselves and, above all, the particular context. But I find humanity’s and society’s greatest expression in nature.” So the artist’s latest sculptures, made from natural prime materials, are no surprise. Leaves, trunks, branches, roots: all elements which the artist came across by chance and whose overall sense he managed to see.
abstract from the art catalogue: TvBoy MashUp, 2010, Independent. Buy catalogue.
Mash up is, first of all, a story. A contemporary fairy tale which incorporates (encompasses) other stories, or actually, lots of fragments each one of us will easily recognize because we all have been part of them. An articulate exhibition where visitors are invited to submerge themselves among the visions and colors of a fragmented contemporaneity and a stirred past revisited in a pop prospective. It is a story that’s been told through three moments which epitomize the roots, philosophy and the style of Salvatore Benintende, aka TV Boy, as an artist.
In the first chapter of the exhibition, provocatively called Il-legal Art, we wanted to tell the urban roots of Tv Boy’s art, his growth as a street art icon, the road as a free form of artistic expression and his evolution into a public and well-known artist. The second chapter, called The Naked King, tells about Tv Boy’s philosophy and his controversial relationship with the world of art as seen through a real sensibility, almost a teenage one, which leads him to be amazed by the Other, which in his paintings becomes a dialectic tool for his art. The final chapter, called Pop Fragments, sees Tv Boy producing alterations of time by playing with historical icons of the public imagination which become self quotations of a typical-twentieth-century-immersed Tv Boy. It is not a case we used a false quote as an epigraph for this catalogue. A Majakovskij contextualized meta-quote which the artist revisited by moving from the political to the artistic plane. We no longer are in the early twentieth century Russia, a country shaken by the Communist revolution. We are in an artistic context in the early twenty-fist century were contemporary art was voided of its essence as a public art, whose only hope for a revival seems to be the street.
abstract from the art catalogue: PoesiaViva, 2009, Skira. Buy catalogue.
ivan is a poet with a romantic artistic sensibility which is seen in every example of his output, whether on or off the streets, with an explosive energy that he channels into his aim of involving everyone in poetry, because everyone has the right to experience it. ivan speaks to anyone he meets along the way; he exchanges views with strangers, he spins stories for passers-by and entices those who give him nasty looks with a smile and a gaze that are halfway between bohemian mawkishness and the brazenness of someone who – always and wherever he is – sails against the wind.
ivan explains to everyone just why he scatters poetry everywhere and puts words down in the streets in his constant search for a dialectic. This leads him to experiment with increasingly new forms of interaction with the people who will become the real protagonists of his poetry – indeed, so much so as to disarm and overturn the usual rules for the enjoyment and definition of an art that is becoming more and more imprisoned in schemes dictated by hysterical fashions and wild coefficients. Because of his versatile attitude towards art and poetry, it is impossible to stick a single label on ivan to indicate his lively artistic consciousness.
And yet there is a single leitmotif that underpins all his output: his natural and genuine sensitivity towards Others. Above all, ivan is a poet who can see beyond the system’s barriers and contemporary hypocrisies.
He is a poet-artist able to be receptive to things and people and to translate all this into verses and images as sincere as they are seductive. And it is this very sensitivity that, I believe, is essential for the increasingly difficult task of defining the personality of an artist. When he first wrote “He who sows the wind makes the heavens bloom”, written instinctively on the parapet of the Milan docks in 2001, ivan laid down the basis of all his artistic production over the last ten years. This verse encloses the desires and the power at the heart of ivan’s art.
A desire for freedom, irony and an awareness of a grey and disarming present, so much so as to impel him to leave the land to those who still believe that seeds thrown into the wind are wasted and are not aware that flowers cannot be gathered by lowering the gaze but that they bloom when you raise your eyes. In fact, by working in the streets, this poet-artist has the possibility of creating a face-to-face interaction with others, thus allowing him to dialogue with his neighbours and make them participate in a double game: both the artist and those who appreciate his art are the protagonists of an fascinating artistic-poetic action that reaches its highest expression in one of ivan’s best-known phrases: “The poet is you who are reading.” This verse – which is highly reminiscent of Beuys’s “Everyone is an artist” and, earlier still, Croce’s “We are all potential artists” – clearly expresses the importance of other persons in the artist’s creative process: so much so as to call to mind the basic idea of contemporary art, one made famous by Duchamp’s words that it is the public which completes the work of an artist by benefiting from it.
So ivan’s is a “revolution at poetry’s service” where everything is transformed into poetic material, a poetry to be freely and publicly enjoyed and where both the poet and the reader are part of the magnificent tension of poetic action.
abstract from the art catalogue: Start a Revolution Without Weapons, 2008, Drago. Buy catalogue.
Tv Boy is the son of postmodernism and of the cross-media mashup. His works are a Bachtin-like way of making a carnival of contemporaneity where styles, quotations and influences are thrown onto the canvas like fragments of a past of street-pop aesthetics with a neo-punk aftertaste. Starting from the street as his own means of expression, Salvatore Benintende, alias Tv Boy, has made his art a continual experimentation for communicative and artistic languages where the mass media become both an inspiration and negation of his interests. With this simple yet universally understandable message, the artist has imbued life into his creative alter ego: a very young child who, with genuine sensitivity, observes the present day shattered into bastardized fluxes and mixtures of styles.
All elements to be found in Salvatore Benintende’s work, both in the street and in the studio. Looking at his canvases is like looking at Peter Greenaway’s A Zed and Two Noughts or Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction through fragmentary frames while navigating across the ether. His art is a meta-narration of contemporaneity consisting of allusions to, and quotations from, a past that is brought back to life in a double game which invites the viewer to take part in Art’s dialogue. Tv Boy has reinterpreted all his heroes, from Roy Lichtenstein to Milton Glaser, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol in a constant customization of his own past.
In his canvases, the spirit of rock – grunge from the covers of Guns n’ Roses and Nirvana – elbows its way through the fetishes of pop iconography and imagery in an ironic mixture of cultural assemblages worthy of Adrian Tranquilli. Like postmodern artists he mixes anthropological symbols and religious archetypes with superheroes and comic-strip iconography.
This is Tv Boy’s way of ironically thinking about the figures that have characterized his times by alluding to an uncertainty – typical of this century – in which “everything is possible and nothing is real”. His artistic essence lies in the very sensitivity with which he observes surrounding reality: a genuine, almost adolescent, sensitivity which, like the little boy in Pascoli’s poem, leads him to be amazed by the Other which, in his canvases, becomes a dialectical tool for his Art. The artist adds all the expressiveness of street life, a movement that he adopted from its very start, to the irony of postmodernism and to his ability to mix styles and tools typical of the media mashup.
In the street Salvatore Benintende puts himself in the place of Tv Boy, hovering between the tenderness of a child and the vehemence of Illustrarocker: someone who has left his mark right around Europe, from the streets of Milan, to the outskirts of Barcelona which he has chosen as his creative studio.
In this way his becomes a surprising and enticing public art that can be enjoyed by all. He tells stories and amazes. And, thanks to his uniqueness, he manages to resist even anti-graffiti terrorism which, in this period, dominates Milan where, without any criteria, all the walls of the city are becoming once again as grey as the atmosphere itself.
The best way to get to know Tv Boy’s art is, in fact, to walk around the city streets that hosted it and whose corners the artist gifted with colour. As much in the gallery as in the streets, Salvatore Benintende pours out his art, imagining dreamlike worlds and dreaming of imaginative stories while he slides, with exquisite balance, from art to design, from illustration to communication. Come out and play!
Empire Street Building
abstract from the art catalogue: Scala Mercalli, 2008, Drago. Buy catalogue.
Nowadays, Street Art is halfway between the stars and an artificial glitter. Between a past made by illegality, freedom and cans and a future, uncertain, made by ambiguous institutions, white walls and claustrophobic galleries.
We are living the “simulacrum stage” of street art, in which street art’s fiction has become fiction itself, through a meta-representation of art turned into an aware and deliberated duplication of urban reality. A spectacular reverse gear that puts street art into a new enjoyment context where artwork doesn’t go to people (as it used to be in the street) but where people go to explore, to browse, the world of street art trough galleries, museums and all those fair, white and polite spaces where the enjoyment and the perception of art become fictitious and mechanical.
Street Art is like the Empire State Building seen through Andy Warhol’s vintage film where the object itself is raised to artwork only because it’s made official by an author’s shot that turns it from urban object to artistic object.
This smart art-fiction operation moves the representation of reality into a new imaginary that can be complete only outside, in the street. Nowadays, the film camera is not the icy Andy Warhol’s eye anymore. It’s not the eye that portrays, with anonymous objectivity, an artistic and social renaissance made by mass communication and serial reproduction. Today the key brick is the mechanism of contemporary art itself that crystallizes street art and makes it slave of a system based on a paradoxical and wicked idea so that not-street-art (street art in a gallery, where the street isn’t), represented by the fiction of street art caged into the sterile showcase of a gallery, is more street-art than the real essence of street art which can only be in the street, reducing street art exhibitions to a total immersion into a non-street-art experience.
In this perspective, street art out there (on the wall, in the streets etc etc) are written off in the name of order and legality, while street art in there (in galleries, museum etc etc) are sold with vertiginous selling price. We are in the face of the umpteenth victory of imaginary on symbolic. Everything is worth only with its metaphysical weight of its own essence alleviated and lighted up by contemporary media.
Street Art, with no more street, finds its consecration with contemporary art institution becoming a sweetened art that shrinks from traditional fruition’s way but follows the rules of contemporary art system.
In this way, street art has became pressed like the air into the can that generated it. Under pressure. Media pressure. Artistic pressure. Economic pressure. And Legal pressure. Always a hair’s breadth away from explosion. Balanced between being a speculative bubble or being part of a new era of contemporary art that sees street art as an alternative breath to the claustrophobic conceptual art. The media hotchpotch around this movement, the last acrobatic Banksy’s prices and the entrance of street art into the perverse market of contemporary art, marked the end of street art right at the time of its cultural growth. Because today everything is street art.
With no distinctions. In this perspective, in the biggest italian street art exhibition, every art is well accepted. From ivan’s poetry to fupete’s illustrations. From Tv Boy’s pop art to Joys’s sculptures. Because nobody wants to miss the train of street art. Even if that train is full up, everybody wants his reserved seat. Because street art is the movement of al the movements. Expression of all expressions. At the same time. Without truly being not even one. In street art you can find poetry, graphic, illustration, sculpture, painting, light design, performance and so on.
Street Art is a melting pot of centuries of art smeared on urban landscapes where the irreverent and engaging energy of the first happening by Kaprow and Cage is mixed with the rough strength of the surface eaten by Tapies, Pollock and Dubuffet. Where the communicational immediacy of Neo-Dada and Situationist International merges in the fragmented irony of post-modernism and the religious iconography of late middle ages. Street art is not a movement which can be easily wedged in rules or some kind of manifesto. Street art is a flair for conquering spaces always bigger with the same energy that pushed the Warriors in their flight to Coney Island. In this exhibition, as we did one year ago with “Street Art Sweet Art”, we have tried to create a subjective portrait about one, just one, contemporary imaginary of street art, riding the shock of a earthquake that, in spite of everything, keeps its epicenter in the street.
abstract from the art catalogue: Bros 20e20, 2008, Skira. Buy catalogue.
Since I have had to do with Daniele Nicolosi – best known as ‘Bros’ – I have labelled him in various ways. I have called him a griot, storyteller, apocryphal writer, scribbler, visionary, minimalist signifier, painter, performer, irritant, iconoclast, arrogant, pure to the end, bewildered, symbolist, commercial, anti-commercial, intelligent, crazy, dreamer, uncouth, equivocal, hybrid, irritating, deep, eccentric, egocentric, outsider, insider, unpredictable, unmanageable, intrusive and irreverent.
And for all these reasons put together I have always considered him an artist. In the broadest possible sense. Bros is an artist out of time. For him there is no distinction between art and life. Whatever stance he takes, whether personal or public, it is an expression of his art. In an age overwhelmed by the media, where our imagination is shattered and recomposed on the fringe of increasingly chaotic and broken communications, Bros brings art back to its basic function: as a means of mass communications, completely opposed to contemporary minimalism and conceptualism. His street works are a summary of the interpretative urge of contemporary liquidity that suffocates and leaves us no space. His art is a continuous flow that never stops changing. Its form changes, its aesthetics change, its essence changes. From the urban pop of his first street art up to the amorphous forms of his latest murals.
A continual avant-garde. Insistence on form. The only thing that doesn’t change is his expressive power, the need to communicate with everybody and to be heard. Social art. But certainly not in the fashionable sense of today. Bros’s art doesn’t have much ‘social responsibility’ or ethics, and even less the third sector. Actually, a lot can be said – and a lot has been said – about Daniele Nicolosi, but it certainly cannot be said that his art is politically correct. One of those frontcover arts for finding a sponsor or to put in a fashion magazine. But is this art? Of course not.
Art is something that goes beyond fashion or the aesthetic taste of the majority. Art has never been kind and, when it is, it will never be art. Art can move, it can make us think. Art can be lifechanging and can make us dream but, as long as we are dealing with art, it can never leave us indifferent. Art is a revolution. Art is an entanglement that breaks the monotony of everyday life. And it is this very going further that Daniele Nicolosi imposes as an artist. Bros goes further. Whatever limit is imposed on him, he overcomes it. Without asking for permission and, to paraphrase Banksy, without even asking pardon.
5 Degrees Under
abstract from the art catalogue: 5 Degrees Under, 2007, Independent.
Street art today is 5 degrees under the institutionalisation of increasingly neutral settings and 5 degrees over a past of unlawfulness and aerosols. Following the success of exhibitions such as “Street Art Sweet Art” at the Pavilion of Contemporary Art in Milan and “Street Art” at the Tate Gallery in London, street art finally seems to have gained entry to the Olympus of universally accepted Art. Yet street art continues its pioneering progress outside institutional channels such as galleries and museums, while making itself heard in the streets and vibrating on the walls of cities all over the world.
From Banksy in England and JR in Paris to Tv Boy in Barcelona and The London Police’s collective in London. Acclaimed and attacked like a super hero of Marvel cartoons, street art is probably one of the modern art forms that the public is involved in and relates to most, striking and exciting as few other currents have succeeded in doing in the past century. Because street art hits the onlooker right between the eyes with all the weapons it has available – from poetry and illustration to photography and sculpture.
What matters is the message and the ability to propagate it to as wide an audience as possible, since everyone has the right to enjoy art and its many declinations.
For this exhibition we have selected five of the leading exponents of Italian street art to give an overall view of the raft of styles and expressions characterising this art form. From poems by Ivan, who for five years has used the world’s streets as blank pages for his verses, to the mystical figures and neo-renaissance style of Gionata Gesi Ozmo, a key player in the spring of contemporary art in Italy. From the illustrative pop style of TvBoy, who grew up in the streets of Milan and achieved artistic maturity in the galleries of Copenhagen, Barcelona and Amsterdam, to the graphics of Microbo and Bo130, who are recognized globally as the precursors of Italian street art.
A melting-show that conveys a message to a vast audience, fascinating and amazing them with its strong communicative mark born of situational influences and the detournement of daily life as well as the pop awareness typical of street art. A site-specific exhibition staged in a location that has been converted for the occasion into both container and contents. All the artists have interpreted the spaces allocated to them as a wall, going beyond the normal surface of artistic fruition and re-inventing new worlds of art and communication in the streets and the galleries.
abstract from the art catalogue: Street Art Sweet Art, 2007, Skira. Buy catalogue.
Street Art is untamable, sexy, and scathing. It is oblivious of any pre-set boundaries. It provocatively uses sensuality and changes everything it touches, altering every surface and every object. It spreads like a virus, using the streets as a mean and scratch as its propagandistic vehicle. Street Art was initially born as Twombly and Dubuffet’s chaotic, spontaneous, impromptu, brute and informal artistic answer to consumeristic cannibalism and the media bombing at the end of last century.
It chocks the horror vacui of the cities in a whirlpool of stickers, stencils and posters covering walls, lamp-posts and buildings, turning urban landscapes and contexts into works of contemporary art which can be freely enjoyed by everyone. What always fascinated me about Street Art is its ‘punk soul.’ The one that came out of the ghettos in the late sixties, with A. One, Ronnie Cutrone and Basquiat. The one you can experience on the walls of New York City, the symbol and temple of post-modern culture, where Futura 2000, Buggiani, Haring, Taki 183 turned the urban setting into an open air art gallery, being led by an inner drive that set colors on fire in the air, like a bomb.
It is very hard to find the same energy in other artistic expressions. Because art, since Duchamp, wrapped up in itself, fed by a vicious circle of museums and galleries that suppressed its instinct and faded its colors. After six years of Street Art and sixteen editions of the Illegal Art Show, I still crave this energy. Enjoying the passing grandeur of a No future kind of art which was born on the walls, enjoyed when paint is still wet, drops draining from the cracks of a rough surface which gives it life. This is the real power of Street Art, its spontaneousness. Those who paint walls do it only for the real sake of art, to conquer a space that was once denied and give her contributions to the neighbor, amaze, snare, give her a part of her self. A work of Street Art cannot be sold, it only obeys its creator’s instinct, it is out of every commercial or market rule. It is alien to any destructive and claustrophobic dynamics. It erases any intermediation and brings Art back where it belongs-amongst the people. Because Street Art cannot really be defined as an artistic movement. Rather, it should be seen as a form of expression which can apply to any form of art, from painting to poetry. From sculpture to photography.
Street Art shakes the relationship between artist and viewer, making it a wrapping and moving experience. It amazes and transmute. It creates and gives meaning. It deceives, seduces and inveigles with flattery. It is not a style-it’s a longing to communicate. ivan’s poetic assault, Linda’s lemeris, Abbominevole’s gigantic pictures, Nais’ shy and sensual women, Tvboy’s rock star puppets, Pus’ urban beetles and Pao’s metropolitan penguins are all metonymies of a big stream flowing across the cities, causing turmoil and chaos under everyone’s eyes. The real essence of Street Art is the community. Every artist is part of a collective work which is fragmented across the streets of the polis, creating several meanings out of a first one, whilst the classic artistic fruition process is broken, cut and edits as if it was a Tarantino’s. Mixed scenes and fading characters in a post situationism environment which develops from the ashes of modern showbiz. Street Art in Milan means passing from Bros And Sonda’s murals to Bo130 and Microbo’s posters, neoclassic reassessments by Ozmo, up to Dade’s neovintage detournement and then back to Bros’ installations. All in a matter of meters. When thinking about the set-up of the Street Art Sweet Art exhibition our goal was to keep this sense of deconstruction of the exhibition alive, alternating between installations and works from different artists, mixing styles and shapes according to all the digressions from the subject of a multi-layered art which often stumbles on non-artistic expressions. It is therefore no surprise that part of the exhibition is dedicated to all products arising from Street Art (T-shirts, gadgets, toys, bags, posters…) which characterized this artistic expression since the early days of the Haring/Warhol Pop Shop golden couple.
Street Art is a cunning deconstruction of a popolar, anonymous and undefined context which becomes the object of a new, artistic and contemporary meaning. Because street art alters, carves and creates new situations, piercing through the vertigo of a pre-artistic pathway made of galleries and commercial television channels. And here we are, to the very heart of this exhibition and the difficult and complex definition of a new aesthetics which comes from a very unstable site-specific form of art which can hardly be reproduced in a context that is not the one from which it took place, as land art and other expressions clearly show. Street Art was born as an art that de-contextualizes its own context, being a part of it. Defining the imaginary world of a new art with an urban matrix, and doing it from inside an institutionalized point of view, was not an easy task at all. What we wanted to outline in this exhibition is the imaginary experience of a place that does not exist. It is an ideal Walhalla of a street-decontextualized street art, which leads us into thinking about a possible aesthetics and a development which, we hope, will not drift away from its roots. “The truth is out there”