Ciao Coco. You have latin origins, is this right?
Yes… I consider my self Puerto Rican, although I was born and raised in New York… My mother was from Puerto Rico, and my father was born an raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil from Italian parents, and relocated to Calabria at the age of 14… we always spoke spanish at home, and I learned Italian in college.
How old are you? Where in New York did you start your creative career?
I’m getting closer to my mid fifties… and I feel that I started my creative career as a child, and developed it on the streets and subways of New York.
I have read somewhere you started painting in the late 60s. It would be boring to ask you the same old question about the masters you met during that years, so I would like to ask you about the city of New York, the common people that surrounded you and your friends, politicians too… how did they react to a such new form of communication? You were there from the beginning! I’m a little younger and I always imagine the 60s as a very creative era, where people were experimenting every sort of art, sex and drugs ha ha ha…
I feel that being a child of the sixties, I experienced the ultimate era of change… in every form that you can imagine… in saying that; I feel this was the major ingredient that created an art expression that has taken the entire world; which is in it’s forth decade. I would say that being around so many open-minded people was what pushed this new form of communication forward.
How writers were presenting themselves during those days? I mean, were you able by looking at them to understand they were writers?
I feel that writers carried themselves in a certain way that other writers could read them… sort of a walk that would talk… and there was a degree of honor and respect… especially when you meet each other.
Please tell us about the UGA’s story.
There is so much to say… I’ll just keep it short with saying that this was where the concept of painting on canvas and exhibiting the work in galleries was innovated. I feel privileged to have taken part of the organization, and to have painted with some of the masters. I continue to stay in touch with some of the artists, especially one in particular which I build and share ideas consistently… mi fratello P.H.A.S.E.2
What you say it’s interesting ’cause it links with what it’s happening today: during last years street arts obtained new attention from the “conventional art world”, and you too are involved in many new exhibitions. There’s still around a lot of people that cant think of street arts being exhibited in galleries: at the end of this reasoning, there’s always have been this idea that if you don’t do it in the streets for free, it cant be “true”. Of course it’s different, but that doesn’t mean it can be less interesting… or not?
Well when say you people, it depends who they are… and what gives them the authority to say what is art. I don’t pay too much attention to this, I rather incorporate my energy on moving forward. My roots stem from being anti-authority, and against not having anyone control me… I paint for myself. Many things have changed throughout the years… for example: the street culture has made a crossover where now art students that embrace the culture, go out in the streets and put there spin on it, and return to the gallery environment with a certain translation of there street experience. There’s a lot of dope work out there… which I find interesting and like.
The essence, and the criteria of what made you a “true” writer when I painted, and what makes you a writer/street artist today consist of two totally different social-economic climates. So, I feel it depends of what’s interesting to the eye of the beholder; and how educated they are on the subject.
We’re speaking about exhibitions, so what are you working at, right now? I know you’re having some shows…
Well… I’m constantly working, conceptualizing in my head as much as physically expressing something on paper or on another material. I finished having a show at Bard College, a liberal university upstate New York; where I painted 56 pieces relating to the sciences; this past March. I plan to move some of these pieces to another university that is dedicated to the sciences and medicine. I tend to be discrete about upcoming projects… but there’s a number of things in the works…
Most of my works continue to have my name, or a portion of my name. I’ve fused the letters into a cell or a molecular like structure with different images of living matter in them; as if you were looking through a microscope… after 40 years the name has evolved into something else.
It’s great to hear about you staying in touch with Phase 2. A few time ago I have read the text he wrote for the catalogue of the big exhibition in Paris sponsored by Foundation Cartier in 2009. It was short but still the best reading in a while… Anyway, sometimes I think that the world is going exactly in the opposite direction from Phase words: common people will never learn to love letters. It’s too difficult to understand, it’s like a science for few. And it’s a kind of science that don’t pay bills: art dealers aren’t interested. At the end, this push a lot of crazy good writers, to force themselves to do something different if they want to stay alive being artists… don’t you think it’s sad?
P.H.A.S.E. and I have continued to stay in touch throughout the years, we have a incredible degree of respect for each other… and we share many of the same ideologies’ concerning the culture, as we both feel it’s our responsibility to continue to put things into perspective. Its depends on how you translate what P.H.A.S.E. writes…the culture started with the letter, for which this makes it the main foundation… most of the work today has moved away from the letter, and ventured into other subject matters. Figurative works or anything else, are not being criticized, it’s more about how we feel and lived for this form of expression. As for certain individuals that are forced to do something different to stay alive, and the pay the bills… I don’t walk in there shoes… and don’t know what they have to do to stay alive… I know that sometimes you do things, that later in life you wished you did differently… in saying that; hopefully it helps calibrate your integrity, and which direction you want to go in life with your work.
What music do you listen at when you sketch or paint?
I listen to an array of different music, I usually start with some jazz/latin jazz, some soul, and world music which helps me travel mentally… it depends how I feel, and what I’m working on.
If you could share a project with some famous artist of past times, which one would you choose? And what you would do with him?
I have a long list… but I’ll start with two great Puertoricans artists… Raphael Tufino and/or Lorenzo Homar… they both were master printmakers as they were fine artists. Homar worked magic with letters and words… Tufino, incorperated nationalistic issues in his works… a collaboration on the streets of Old San Juan Puerto Rico, with one or both of them would of been an honor!
…and if you could choose a writer for sharing a t2b whole-car mission?!?
In all likelihood I would start with P.H.A.S.E.2… for old times… and because we have done many collabs on canvas together, but never something on a whole car… and I would like to do something with other writers as well; that are well respected… here, and in different countries. I feel that projects with other writers keeps a certain energy flowing… and in touch with whats happening.
Is there something that you consider a turning point of your life?
I feel my waking up everyday in good health is a turning point in my life… having a family has always been a major one for me.
What kind of people do you consider NOT interesting?
I consider folks with negative dispositions not interesting, and folks that pretend to be what there not; even less interesting.
Is there an hidden part of NY that you love for some reason?
I think most of the hidden parts of the city have been developed… but Riverside Drive (NYC) from 125th street to 168th street has a certain feeling I love; due to my spending a good portion of my childhood in that area.
Few months ago Dare, a famous european swiss writer, has dead of cancer. And last year we lost Iz. And we probably lost lots more… Mode 2 recently tried to bring to light the problem and the risks for the health of using spraycans, and the fact that producers are doin nothing to improve the safety of the colors, even if some of them in the last 20 years were covered by gold thanx to all the artists buying colors… What do you think?
First I commend MODE 2 for taking such a strong and contoversal position on the matter… its important to take some means of protection (mask with the correct filter) when using spraypaint. I think that things would change if more artists started to speak up, or maybe stop buying the product… as a means of protest… if you can go out, and take over the trains and streets, then you can go out and make a statement about an issue that concerns your health.