So… You are in Barcelona, is it your second home now?
Yeah, it’s like my home now.
How long are you going to stay there?
Nobody knows. Maybe forever, maybe a couple of months. This is like a new life here in Europe, more chill, more organized than I used to live.
Different from Argentina?
Barcelona is similar and different at the same time. More similar culture than in States for example. I have a lot of friends here, and language…
You travel really a lot, everywhere, even don’t really have time to get some rest I guess…
Yeah, that’s for many years, it’s kind of normal for me now. I just came from London and going to Mexico. I really enjoy it.
Do you like to travel so much? Have you ever felt like you don’t want to go, so tired…
I most of the time get tired.
I know there are some differences in painting in different countries, do you have some favorite countries or places and maybe some places that you don’t like for some reasons?
At first time when I went out of Argentina, I came here in Barcelona 10 years ago, it always was my favorite city in the world after Buenos Aires. I also like Berlin, New York, Mexico City… I love Mexico.
What about Paris?
I like Paris, but it is different, the same as London, you need a lot of money to really enjoy it. Not easy going cities… Maybe 7 or 6 place of my favorite cities but not in the TOP 5.
I lived in France for two years. I’m not crazy about Paris, I rather liked walking far from Avenue des Champs-Élysées, in not really safe neighborhoods, looking for murals. That’s where you can see real French without tourists. Somewhere there was the first mural by you that I saw and was very impressed by it in 2012. It consisted typical for that time circles instead of faces. Tell me about this painting.
At that time I was making my first print there. I did that wall by myself, super fast for a couple of hours, people were not happy because of that. I think it is the only area where you can paint easily in this city.
Do you remember? Very close to this piece is a street (Rue Denoyez) painted all over, every house with installed weird objects, like a collage. Looks like trash that people have thrown away from their houses was attached to the walls. Pretty funny.
Yeah, it is kind of weird, crazy shit. But this is the only place in Paris where you can paint without permission. I did also a bigger wall but totally out of the city, very far.
Open Walls Baltimore, MD, 2012
What do circles mean, those faceless creatures?
It is kind of censorship with the identity of persons that I create. I started painting those kind of image because of the football hooliganism culture in Argentina, it is like those people who always hide their identity. So I connected that underground culture with underground culture of the graffiti. Those cultures are very similar: nobody shows face, everybody hides the identity and use nickname. So I started to paint those fights, cultural clashes without faces or with animal faces. Also I use black faces, like animals but totally black, creating that kind of no identity. At that time, especially with that wall in Paris, I was using two different ways of paint: one was very expressive, I was using solvent for paint, very expressive kind of watercolor. At the same time I was using abstract shapes…. It was an idea to put two different way of paint, like clashing not only about the theme but also about the paint. Then I turned to another different things that I’m working right now, paper, collages…. Overlapping the materials give me kind of similarity of the expression of the paint… It’s a long story.
Yeah… I know you used to use even gasoline and tar. Tell me about your last passion, collages. I have never seen this kind of mural.
I made two walls with paper. One in Mexico with Alexis Diaz a couple months ago. It looks like a paint but it is totally paper. Also I made another wall in Dominican Republic, I was 10 days nonstop cutting paper and it was very hard, because Dominican Republic is like Florida very tropical. It was raining all the time, it was super difficult but very interesting at the same time. And the last work that I made in my studio was a mix of paper and paint. The idea is to create a morphing mural. With time paper goes down but the paint still remain.
I have seen some weatpaste works of JR after some time, it looks terrible.
My idea is to mix paint and paper thinking about how it’s gonna look in the future.
Miami, Wynwood, 2014
Speaking about Identity. Some your creatures don’t have any identity but it doesn’t work towards the bulls in Miami that have particular names of artists in the form of tattoo, right? Tell me about this work. It is actually one of my favorite works. I went to Miami a few months ago, it still exists and looks like new, which is rare for Wynwood.
People who invited me to paint this wall take care of it. I don’t know if you remember a wall I made one year ago, black and white. It was like the same idea but most obviously in this case.
Miami, Wynwood, 2013
Yeah, when I just saw this black and white wall I wasn’t sure if the word “Miami” is a tag or your idea. Then I realized the animals represent all those people coming to Miami to paint, right?
Exactly. On the second wall it is more friendly way to tell about what is happening now in Miami: Wynwood Walls became Wynwood Wars, everybody is just fighting with everybody to get one piece of this f***ing area. With sense of humor about all of us. Everybody is like a bull at that time. That’s basically the story about that wall. Another idea was: it was asked by the owner to paint bulls. Because I made a wall next to that one in 2011 with two big blue bulls. They really loved the idea with bulls so they asked me about it.
Do you accept wishes from owners? It happens to me all the time, people want something particular, sketches and something related to their business…
Bulls are very common subjects in my work so it wasn’t hard. If they ask me to paint cars I would say “sorry.”
Miami, Wynwood, Art Basel 2014, collaboration with 2501
So, what is happening now in Wynwood?
In 2011 it was interesting, friendly, happy, with more respect to artists, like a party with a festival spirit. I’m so impressed how it turned for the last four years to very ugly situation. It looks like a circus. The idea of sharing spaces for the public art is totally lost. Art Basel supposed to have top level of art in one city and at the same time you have all that shit in Wynwood. Last year even though we got good spot with 2501 in front of Wynwood Walls it was kind less wall for paint ever. When I was thinking of doing this wall it was totally the opposite idea, the artwork get lost because of all this craziness.
The mural looks cool to me though. I know there was a sad story about graffiti artist Demz who died during Art Basel…
Yeah, it was right after we had finished the wall. He died just for making tag while everybody were painting everywhere in Wynwood at the moment!
Fellow graffiti artists have questioned why an undercover unit was out looking for taggers during Basel week, when hundreds descend on Wynwood to paint new murals on nearly every free surface. The area where officers began chasing Demz, for instance, is already spider webbed with graffiti tags. – Miami New Times.
It’s sad for me that initially interesting projects Wynwood Walls and Primary Flight now became “a big snowball eating the whole area”. Wynwood is gone. Last year was like real fighting and the year when I painted black and white was even worse. I got here with many promises, many ideas. It supposed to be one machine for everybody but we had one machine for 7 artists. It turned to craziness, everybody started to fight with everybody. I said ok, I don’t care, I’m gonna get one pull, I have black paint so I tried to create that black and white piece with that idea of nothing. In the beginning it was street art, work without any big expectations now everybody works in the street only with expectations…
Yeah, shame the main purpose is not to create art for people to enjoy but to become famous.
Wynwood is a very easy way to get known right now.
Living Walls, Atlanta, GA, 2013
Well, for me Wynwood is a paradise, I love it. I don’t care about all those fights, I’m not an artist. It is like a museum for me where I can recognize a lot of great artists. I mean, I’m not able to travel a lot to different countries in order to see my favorite artists but I can go to Miami and to find many of them. Why do you think it happened? For example, Living Walls was a good festival but they skipped this year…
In my opinion, Living Walls was the best festival in the world, because of the mentality of the founder Monica Campana and all those people who created that festival. First of all, because they had very good list of artists in my point of view. Very good criteria and very good organization. They were really good in that terms but not in terms of popularity. Living Walls never got so big as Pow Wow Hawaii for example. I wasn’t there but many of my friends have been there. As a festival it is a disaster, the circus, but they have so good advertisement. Some festivals become more famous and leave behind the quality, at least the identity of festival. I was in living Walls two times, for me it was very special because it was first festival who gave me the chance to work in big scales, to meet so many my references at that time, to work with them side by side. So, for me it was super important. One more fact about Living Walls is that it was first festival that gave new people a chance to work with very famous artists.
Living Walls, Atlanta, GA, 2013
I know in the beginning you did classical graffiti as many other artists and one day decided to do something different, more artistic things. I read in some interview that graffiti community wasn’t happy about it… How was that?
I was very traditional graffiti artist with tags and everything. I think after my first trip to Europe, more than 10 years ago, I switched to totally different. My background was in art school. In my family are sculptures and painters, most in my family are artists, so I grew up in the artist environment. When I came to Barcelona, I saw this movement: street art as we know right now. I met many artists that we don’t know right now but at that time they were very important. It had blown my mind, I came back to Buenos Aires with new ideas and obviously my friends were not happy at all, because graffiti is very traditional, very strict about how you make it. If you say you wonna use a brush they gonna kill you. I didn’t care, I started trying different materials. At the same time 2003-2004 another group in Buenos Aires started to do stencils, first street artists from Argentina, mostly Buenos Aires who got the city, totally got the city. Buenos Aires is still very easy going about graffiti, you can paint everywhere nobody really cares. So it was very easy for us to use a big city as a good playground, we didn’t have any problems with police or neighbors.
Miami, Wynwood, 2013
How do you think it is possible to encourage graffiti writers to do more figurative things? I know some talented people who just keep writing the same things, they don’t want to grow, they don’t want to develop it somehow, they just want to be recognized….
I don’t know.
You don’t have any advice?
It is the same for me as street art. I recognized myself as street artist but I don’t want to be recognized only as a street artist. I’m ceramist first of all, I studied in ceramic school. I did a lot theater on a stage, I studied traditional art and contemporary… I like the idea just to be an artist, I don’t care graffiti writer or street artist, or painter. But I have so many hardcore graffiti friends who just want to paint the same things. It depends on every people. For me is interesting that very old school writers who came from hardcore graffiti background now do contemporary art, totally different. Those artist who worked in the street now have very sensitive work. I mean, it is interesting to come from art school but I think it’s really cool process to come from another perspective, who grew up in the street and turned into different way of art. It is not only what you make, it is also about what you think. Some my friends that I started to do graffiti with, 15 years ago, when I see them they still talking the same shit. Come on, we change, we have a lot of things to do!
It’s like when some people keep telling the same cool stories all the time. The stories are good but you have heard it many times… Thank you Franco, can’t wait to see you in Gainesville very soon!