Visiting different pavilions and collateral events of the Venice Art Biennale I bumped into an interesting one.
It’s situated in an industrial location, San Basilio Terminal, a unusual place for an art exhibition. ArTerminal opened his activity with The Bridges of Graffiti, an exhibition curated by Fondazione de Mitri and by the artist Mode2, with the consultancy of Andrea Caputo and DeeMo and organized by Associazione Inossidabile with the support of Autorità Portuale di Venezia.
The Bridges of Graffiti is one of the few exhibitions in Italy to bring graffiti art into a museum.
It was 1984 when the great curator Francesca Alinovi curated “Arte di Frontiera. New York Graffiti“, the famous exhibition that brought for the first time New York graffiti artistic scene in Italy. Now in Venice ten big artists from Europe and United States worked together with some site-specific works conceived especially for this exhibition: Boris Tellegen, Doze Green, Eron, Futura, Mode2, SKKI ©, Jayone, Todd James, Teach, Zero-T. The Bridges of Graffiti would be ” an ideal bridge but also a tangible one, chronicling the influence and cross-pollination of Artists and Artworks that crossed the Ocean”.
At the entrance we are surprised by a cool space designed by Boris Tellegen, an artist that has constantly experimented with 3D and architectural shapes. There you can drink a coffee or have a look to some good books and fanzines documenting street art.
“When I introduced myself he said “Oh – Martha Cooper” and opened his more lavish black book and inside the cover he had one of my photos he had clipped out of the New York Post so he knew me which was great! So I met him in 1978 and interviewed him a while later and started looking at the trains which I hadn’t really noticed before though there really weren’t many out there at any one time that were in a fresh state and hadn’t been buffed. I was fascinated at the lengths the writers would go to to do a piece – stealing the paint, designing the piece, preparing the layout, getting into the yard and all of that” said Martha describing his meeting with Dondi, one of the most influential graffiti artists ever.
In the main room of ArTerminal there is a video installation of photographs representing graffiti art on the trains. “The trains were this arterial thing that became a medium that really created communities” reported Ms. Cooper.
I appreciated very much the works of a cult figure in graffiti word: Futura (US) a contemporary of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat and one of the first New York City graffiti artists to make the transition to the gallery world and to write in an abstract way. Have a look to the geometrical style of Boris Tellegen – Delta (Netherlands) and the linear one of Todd James (US)
I loved the stunning installation of Zero T (Italy), member of the american legendary Rock Steady Crew. For this exhibition Zero T tagged a luxury object, a Louis Vuitton suitcase.
The famous stylist to create his luxury suitcases decided to use the leather of train seats. In graffiti world writing over someone else’s work is a big offense. So tagging on a suitcase Zero disrespected the LV logo and reminds us the roots of street art on the trains.
Very interesting is the work of JayOne (France) known also as Black Picasso. Starting from his roots, Caribbean culture and history, he moves to the representation of the africans in eurocentric France’s social and cultural spaces. Mixing ancient popular imagery with todays Pop concept, his grotesque and metaphorical work appears strongly contaminated by contemporary elements. JayOne is a co-creator and contributor to many local magazine project: such as the first international hip hop fanzine Zulu Letters (Paris), the first street-art magazine Backjumps (Berlin). He is the artistic director and contributor of the conceptual project Afrikadaa, a magazine created in 2010 focused on African artists and beyond.
The large wall at the back was drawn by Mode2 (UK), one of the forerunners of the British graffiti and street art movement formed in Central London’s hip-hop scene. Instead SKKI © (France) presented a great conceptual work about contemporary art system and prohibitions and controls in the streets. I loved Eron work, another big italian artist with his unique and recognized spray painting technique. His works often concerns social issues like in this case: the portrait on the wall represents a street pianist who plays in difficult war conditions.
Eron creates his works always taking into account the surrounding environment. In 2014, while painting the walls at the end of Eron solo exhibition, staff of MAR – Museo d’Arte di Ravenna – wrongly plasters a dot painted by Eron. The news spreads worldwide. Achille Bonito Oliva, a well-known Italian critic, remarks: “The eternal ambiguity between life and art…”. An astonishing wall is that written by Doze Green (US) known as a legend of culture’s uprising. Led by an intuitive flow, Doze has polished his style and advanced from letter forms to character forms that he describes as biological entities of metaphysical spirits.
Last but not least is the artist Teach (UK) with his sentence “You are what you writes”.
The Bridges of Graffiti
Arterminal c/o Terminal S. Basilio, Fondamenta Zattere Ponte di Legno,
Venezia May 9 – November 22