Finally, by popular demand, on the occasion of the exhibition "Cross the Streets", we created "Un Mucchio di Fagiani" [A Bunch of Pheasants], a print in limited edition (1/100) of the site-specific piece the artist realized for the show, of which only a few copies remain. Throughout the years, DRAGO, together with Lucamaleonte, has created several group shows and their catalogues, such as Scala Mercalli, City Slang and Urban Painting.
by Alice Ghinolfi
Speaking with Luca is always a pleasure. Despite being a biting, sharp, and provocative artist, his whole temperament is always filtered by a very natural aplomb. His approach transpires not just from his works but also the technique he uses. He’s a master of the multi-layered stencil, which requires uncommon attention and self-control. Here’s a small sample of his viewpoint on some topics we wanted to tackle with him.
Why did you approach the Street Art world? When, and with what goals?
I approached the Street Art world by chance. I started with graffiti in the second half of the 1990s, but with terrible results, which convinced me to quit that route very early and after only a few tries. But the opportunity to work on the street remained in my heart and my head. Around 2002, I started using my stencils on the street, inspired by what I saw in my area, such as stencils by JBRock, one by Masito, and Pane’s stickers.
I had no goals other than indulging my instincts. I didn’t know that there was a movement in the world called “Street Art”. I only found out years later, when the internet became more widespread.
What are you working on at the moment? What will you show us for the near future?
I’m working for some pretty important brands, and, when I can, I also pursue my own personal path. I should start preparing my first gallery show now, after many years away. I’m still focusing on the concepts. It’s going to be in November, in Milan, Italy.
What is the work you’re most attached to? And what’s one you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet?
The piece I’m most attached to, even if it may sound pandering, but it’s the truth, is the wall I did for the show “Cross the Streets” at MACRO in Rome, called “Il Mucchio di Fagiani” [A Bunch of Pheasants]. It’s the work I’m most proud of, and I often go back and look at photos and show them to everybody. I don’t know…certainly as soon as the interview is over, I’ll think of it!
By making your piece on the street, you automatically interact with the surrounding environment, unlike works in museums, which are placed in a specific place, specifically conceived to host it. How do you feel your work interacts with urban architecture? What new aspects do you feel it may bring to a viewer who may encounter it “accidentally”?
Each work interacts in a different way with the architecture. I try to blend everything together so that it won’t look like a drawing simply stuck on a surface.
I hope that the viewer who may stumble across my works on the street will be prompted to wonder about the reason why it may have been realized precisely in that context, and what symbolic meaning the work may have, also in relationship with the surrounding environment.
How would you describe the “feud” that has developed between the graffiti world and Street Art?
Personally, I don’t care much. I try and fly a bit higher. I don’t have much time and even less to waste on such nonsense. I try to respect whoever pours their heart into it, and not to cover anyone. And I often get respect back. Only once did I cover a graffiti, and I still feel sorry about it to this day. I couldn’t do anything to avoid that, and I did apologize to the artist. I very much appreciate whoever fights to do their own thing free and wild, often more than those who do it with permits, ladder truck, and galleries behind them, even if often I belong to the second category!
Many claim that Street Art is dead. What do you think?
I don’t know, I do my job. It’s definitely not going through its best period. It’s lost much of that instinctive push that characterized it years ago.
It’s evolving into something else, and we’ll see in the very long run who’s truly motivated to pursue an artistic path and who’s only doing it to exploit the passing fad. I have to say I really can’t stand all of the social media chitchat around Street Art, the guided tours, the amateur photographers traveling the world to photograph walls because it’s trendy, without really knowing the dynamics of this job. Often, they collect us like trading cards.
Do you feel that the big brands approaching urban counterculture have a positive or negative impact on the movement? What is the “thin red line” separating the commercial and the underground?
I don’t think they affect it much. I often work with brands, even the big ones, but that’s part of my job, which is being an artist and an illustrator. When I can do a more personal piece, I follow my instinct, and recount my vision of the world bluntly. Having the chance to work with some brands and being paid to draw on walls allows me to carry out projects that would never see the light otherwise, due to the lack of funding.
How much weight do social media have today on corroborating an artist’s success, and how do you use them?
I’m not very good at using social media, and I get quite bored. Instagram, perhaps, amuses me a little more because of the stories: it seems to me there may be more interaction, and I like that. I hope I’ll soon have someone managing these aspects because they peel lots of time off the rest, and absorb a lot of mental space that I could devote to something else.
What are your suggestions for youngsters who may want to become street artists when they grow up?
To start, I’d suggest changing your mind! Then, if you’re truly committed, I’d tell you you’re gonna need love, humility, and to study, like for any type of art, and to get out of your head the idea of becoming a street artist to be successful, because you can see the real motivations from afar.