Italy is a crucial point of reference for the study of classical arts and the enjoyment of many of the best-known masterpieces in the history of the art of all kinds, but certain treasures should not be sought only in the past. Italian contemporary art is worthy of attention as well.
Street art in Italy is flourishing and abundant from north to south of the peninsula, in big cities as well as in small towns. This article will introduce you to some of the most talented Italian street artists, present some of their works and the places where to find them.
Exploring these expressions of contemporary art will allow you to leave the beaten path and fill your eyes and soul with the faces and feelings of authentic Italy.
You may already know some of these street artists (Italian and not) who are active in Italy, while for the others it will be your duty to help make them known!
Paolo Buggiani was born in Castelfiorentino in the province of Florence. When he was little more than twenty years old he was already part of the Italian avant-garde art scene. In the early 60’s he moved to New York, where he spent about 25 years participating in the beginnings of N.Y. street art alongside Keith Haring, Ken Hiratsuka, Richard Hambleton and Linus Coraggio. Buggiani published the first book in Italy on New York street art in 1997, where he clarified the difference between graffiti and street art. His works, or artistic researches as he prefers to call them, often take place in a parallel reality, where everyday obstacles become non-existent making room for desired realities.
This Italian artist is personally involved in authentic street art performances. Paolo Buggiani’s works are often wearable sculptures or installations that he makes dynamic through movement.
Clet Abraham is a provocative street artist in Florence, Italy, creating works of art from everyday street signs.
Street signs? Yup, which is why he’s been fined several times for vandalism and his girlfriend was arrested and detained in Osaka, Japan for altering street signs! But that doesn’t stop him from creating. Turning your average street sign into a work of art is no easy feat, but sticking his ‘alternate version’ street sign over the existing one is sure to bring a smile to your face. Unless of course, your face is inches above a police uniform. Originally from France and now living in Florence, Clet’s studio acts as a gallery and gift shop of his artwork for tourists looking for a unique souvenir of Florence.
The basis of his art is to challenge the formality of street signs and bring a human edge to them with humor, interest, or intrigue. Some cities and countries embrace his art, while others are not so welcoming. In Clet’s own words: “My art is a barometer of Democracy”. His artwork has expanded beyond Florence to other European cities and even as far as New York City.
For those with a sense of humor, his quirky street signs are proudly displayed in homes around the world… a perfect addition to a home bar, games room, or memorabilia room.
Here are some Italian street artists who deserve more visibility
We interviewed 4 young exponents of Italian street art.
CAKTUS & MARIA ARTWORK
The two artists were born and raised in Foggia, Puglia, but have been living in San Nicandro Garganico for several years.
The first approaches of Caktus with writing date back to the mid ’90s’ and are a direct consequence of the spirit of that generation: since 1991, in Foggia, the first crews of writers were born and in a few years, the halls of fame became crowded with new recruits, generating the need to seek new spaces.
He met Maria at the end of 98 ‘and they soon became a couple in life and art. Maria came from an academic background that held back some of her talents.
The new experiences made her painting formidable: soon, spray paint and cement took over the brush and canvas.
Maria adopts a realistic style where she alternates portraits of contemporary artists and philosophers with close-ups of female figures and animals that interact with the surrounding environment.
Caktus in recent years has developed two series of wall illustrations, entitled “Rural aquarium” and “Strange creatures”. They are imaginary aquatic subjects and compositions related to the natural elements of the place.
He prefers animals and organic figures with natural elements.
Caktus & Maria have experienced the enormous lack of structures seriously devoted to visual arts in the territory of Capitanata and especially the Gargano area and strongly desired to contribute to the enhancement of this land.
Currently, their mural works are concentrated in three places:
- The “Ex-Military Seaplane Base- Ivo Monti” in Cagnano Varano,
The “Ex-Prison” of Apricena
Halls of Fame in San Nicandro Garganico.
Painting the Ex-Military Seaplane Base Ivo Monti
The two artists visited the Ex-Military Seaplane Base “Ivo Monti” at the beginning of May 2018 in a completely random way, during a trip with a group of friends.
They immediately realized that all the buildings in the vicinity of the lake were unsafe and inaccessible to humans, but ideal shelters for cows, foxes and wild boars.
Some of the trees had grown so large that they crossed the floors of the upper floors.
Farther away from the lake they found a more isolated, but not unsafe, building.
As soon as we entered, we noticed that the rooms had undergone recent renovations, but due to immediate abandonment, the spaces had been vandalized and looted. The only thing that was still in good condition was the walls. From then on we started to visit the structure to make the first artistic interventions and from time to time we cleaned the spaces from the waste to make the place more welcoming. Since the first intervention, our only expectation was to enhance every mural surface, leaving something beautiful and unexpected, where those who preceded us had degraded and abandoned it.
Gianluca Raro or Raro One is an Italian street artist from Naples and most active in the suburban district of Naples called Scampia.
He works mainly in Scampia carrying out, through his work, a project that aims to create new stimuli and places of social aggregation in one of the most difficult neighborhoods of the city.
His works are often the result of community work where he catalyzes the ideas of passers-by and ragged children.
With his art he wants to fill the gap that separates the urban context from the individual dimension of those who live there.
To this end, he has developed a simple, immediate, and unequivocal graphic vocabulary readable by anyone.
He loves nature and proposes it as a distinctive feature of his art, drawing dense patterns of leaves, graphic synthesis of the olive tree that he considers a symbol of peace, justice and regeneration.
Raro’s work invites to constantly remember that the respect and love for nature and its balance come before progress.
He approached the street art starting from graffiti, signing on walls without really knowing what he was doing, then slowly began to feel the need to want to communicate to others something that was more than the repetition of his name.
When he started doing street art he didn’t know what it was, he thought it was a different way of doing graffiti than the “classic” one.
During a graffiti jam, after drawing his tag, he added flowers in the background with the stem drawn in spray paint and the corolla stenciled with radioactive clover.
That was the first moment when he experimented with a technique later absorbed into the style of his street art.
A thought on street art
“For many years, “street art” represented for me a form of illegal art free from compromises and approvals with the purpose of communicating political and social messages in the streets through the use of stencils, stickers, posters or acrylic paints with drawings made only with a brush.
With time and with the increase of artists and the explosion of the phenomenon, urban forms of expression have become the most diverse.
I think that street art with time is also emptying of content, this is not intended to be a critique of street art but simply an observation of what is happening.
The fact remains that the “street art” is a way to express oneself in the street leaving a work that can be freely enjoyed by all and that still represents the need to feel free from the schemes imposed by the conventional art world”.
What pushes him to paint
He has always had a creative attitude since he was a child.
His family did not want to support this tendency, considering art a mere hobby. Gianluca secretly cultivated his passion as a self-taught artist and painted on the walls in the street with difficulty until he managed to get his family to accept the fact that drawing was so important to him.
Now he continues to paint because it makes him feel good and is his escape from the world.
He believes that he is driven to paint on walls by a sort of ” primordial instinct”.
Raro has used and continues to use different techniques, I use stencils, posters, stickers or I paint using acrylic paint with the technique of Chilean murals.
About his works
“My work wants to represent nature animated by an intrinsic vitality, it is a call to life and rebirth, emphasized by very bright color tones.
Nature is what allows us to live, it has the ability to transform a seed into a plant that gives us food and oxygen and if I think of this process so simple but so complex I can not help but feeling deep respect and esteem. Nature also frightens me because it imposes limits on humanity and if these limits are not respected, it rebels generating tsunamis, floods, earthquakes. These disasters are caused by the exploitation of resources that takes place daily, with the disregard of the consequences that this has on the environment and on human life itself.
I represent nature through my plot of leaves born from the graphic synthesis of the foliage of the olive tree”.
Street art in the heart of Scampia
Walking along Bakù street, the Neapolitan street artist came across a group of workers who were renovating a small house containing an Enel (Italy’s largest electricity supplier) power station. He returned there at the end of the work and noticed that this concrete structure painted yellow was too sharp and looked out of place among the trees of the context. He immediately began to imagine it differently.
At the same time, the digital arts event “Cuore di Napoli” (heart of Naples) was being held in Naples. With a feeling of challenge, and to emphasize the fact that too often certain events are staged in the city center leaving behind “the suburbs” he drew on the power station. Among the leaves, stood a not pixellated and not digitized heart, free and natural, belonging to the earth.
“Nature has a beating heart like the suburbs, both are alive and animated by a strong feeling of redemption.
The best memory I have of this work is that while I was making it, two young boys from that neighborhood approached me and asked to participate… it seemed to me that the right thing to do was to give them the brush and let them paint under my supervision, also because they both live in front of the drawing and looking out from their balconies they would have seen it every day!”
Violetta Carpino is a street artist from Rome, where she has a studio and produces most of her work.
“There was not a specific episode that led me towards art, but I would say life itself did it, or rather my soul. There were also episodes of social exclusion that surely marked me.”
I have always taken refuge in art, I grew up among sheets of paper and colors. I was a peculiar child and although I was very extroverted I loved to take refuge in my mind, in my feelings, and in drawing. I was also sensitive, sometimes melancholic and always very romantic, unusual qualities for a child.”
About street art
For Violetta, making street art means conveying her own feelings and proposing new perspectives. It is a work of art that when it is realized becomes choral, collective. She loves concerts because they make her feel the warmth of many people who come together in a single song… a painting in the street is a great pictorial concert, full of the emotions of many people. Street Art embraces and welcomes new users in a truly democratic aspect of art: it is of and for the people.
She ranges from painting on canvas (oil, acrylic), to painting on mirror, glass, wood. Violetta made the set design of a tour of Italian musician Cristiano De André and the medal of the Rome Marathon for 18000 people. She has created performances and murals, the next one will be in Valentano (in the province of Viterbo), where she will paint inspired by Paolo Ruffini, a great character born in this village who, in addition to being a mathematician, doctor, man of faith, wrote a booklet to demonstrate the immateriality of the soul. She drew inspiration just from this last aspect.
The artist believes that explaining one or more works is reductive. What is important is the natural and spontaneous reading of the user, rather than the creator. Only in this way can the wall really live its own life.
The attempt is to transform states of mind into positive cues, which, however, in a certain sense, can always bring the viewer back to an introspective and reflective aspect, a reunion with himself.
“It’s important, when you take a work out of your studio, to take into account the sensibility of others and respect it, but in some situations it’s just as important to keep in mind that there are preconceptions and prejudices towards which the artist must represent a point of rupture, keeping faith with ideas that may be received with hostility and difficulty. A social issue that I have always held dear is that of violence against women.”
Find more street art in my article about the most popular mural artists in the world.
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