Interview Highlights: Hugo Vitrani
Hugo Vitrani has been an art correspondent for Mediapart since 2010, for which he produces filmed interviews with artists. He was writing for renowned magazines dedicated to art such as Beaux-Arts magazine, Antidote, Snatch and Graffiti Art. Since 2013 Vitrani is the curator of the Lasco Project, huge urban art program in Le Palais de Tokyo in Paris. He recently talked to Artistik Rezo about the third edition of the Lasco Project, the artists involved and the urban art in general. The third installment of the project, and perhaps the best so far, took place on walls in the museum’s basement featuring works of Futura, Mode2, Vhils, Evol, Cleon Peterson, Cockney, Horfée, Ken Sortais, and of course Lek and Sowat. We bring you highlights from Hugo Vitrani’s Artistik Rezo interview in English.
Speaking about this year’s edition of the Lasco Project, Vitrani explains that the idea was not to make a program stamped as “street art”, but to focus on the relationship between art and the street since the emergence of graffiti; the street as a school, the street as studio, the street as a subject. We do not want to lock the artists in groups in which they do not always fall. We have seen too many projects that grouped artists simply because they use spray paint, rather than focusing on the merits of their actions. The artists we present all have different work but they share a special relationship to the architecture, gesture, writing, illegality, and the street. We started the adventure with Lek and Sowat just after the reopening of the Palais de Tokyo. Lek and Sowat then developed a staged installation, bringing together more than sixty artists from the graffiti scene, all recognized in the medium but forgotten by the institutions and the market. Following this project, several other artists got involved, opening new perspectives in our project. Since 2012, there is a version of the Lascaux cave 2014 that spreads the Palais de Tokyo.
Then, Vitrani refers to the work of each participant. Evol created miniature monuments in situ to make visible the invisible, to put the periphery to the center. This artist was influenced in his youth by large groups of buildings of the former GDR. An architecture that was a political dream and is now an urban and social nightmare… At the Palais de Tokyo, his interventions are not fixed in a frame: they arise when we least expect them, sometimes even in areas exposed to other artists.
Cockney had already intervened in the first project of Lek and Sowat in 2012, during his trial where he was sentenced to more than 200,000 Euros for degrading trains and subways with paint. When we speak of the transition from the street to the galleries, we often tend to forget that the first institution faced by graffiti artists is the Palace of Justice, well before the museum. For this new session, we wanted to continue affirming that the artists who practice a hardcore graffiti have their place in an art center without falling into the usual clichés: paintings on subways. The work of Cockney is very sharp, engaged, mixing influences from graffiti, tattoo, Japanese prints, punk cultures … For his “Guerre du Nord ” installation at the Palais de Tokyo – epic tribute to the Gare du Nord, historic site of French graffiti and former headquarters of the anti-tag brigade – Cockney worked from court records of his trial, complaints, etc. It is a judicial vision of his art to which he confronts his personal archives, memories, his painting. By signing these complaints, Cockney states that these court documents are an integral part of his work.
Horfée and Ken Sortais are especially known for their illegal paintings in the street, with an aesthetic closely linked to animated films. They are both graduates of Fine Arts and working in the studio for a long time. If the question of the transition from the street to the studio is exceeded, Horfée and Ken Sortais are among those who are careful not to move to the studio work by simply replicating on canvas their street work. Street work is as relevant and prestigious as a studio work, but a studio work should be as strong and sustained as a work on the street. In recent years with the thrust of the market in urban art, we have seen far too many important artists simply replicate automatically on canvas what they were doing on the street. For their installation “Biolensu” at the Palais de Tokyo, Ken Sortais and Horfée paid tribute to cartoon Violence Jack by Go Nagai.
Cleon Peterson painted a mural 50 meters long, with characters stretched to become at time abstract because of the lack of distance. The audience is really facing the wall, the painting and its violence. He mixes the classical heritage (Greek vases, paintings of war) with the “flat” aesthetics of graphics and references of co called underground cultures.
One of the mythical figures of the movement Futura, being liberated from art market expectations felt free to paint what he wanted. His presence in the Lasco Project is a way to build bridges between the generations, and remember that we are talking about a movement that has a long history and had its first exhibition in the 80s!
Lek and Sowat work a lot on the ruins and architecture, integrating the history of places in their approach. Lek is one of the pioneers of Urbex in graffiti. His work defaces architectures while Sowat documents traces of lives and time. At the Palais de Tokyo they have set up a complex project in several stages, the last of which took place in the basement, in secrecy and darkness, namely an air duct of the Palais de Tokyo. Through this “invisible” project, Lek and Sowat extended the conceptual dimension of their installation work.
Finally, Vitrani reflects on the status of urban art, saying that many collectors, institutions and galleries have their noses far too pointed at the market instead of listening to the advice of the artists themselves. His impression is that street artists are much marginalized by institutions and galleries in France. Without any institutional support or gallery, Lek and Sowat developed in 2010 a museum work with their Mausoleum project totally clandestine. It had a powerful political and social context. Since this project, many are riding the wave of Urbex (Tower 13, the Bains Douches).