Incontriamo Daze nel suo provvisorio studio di Milano in un sonnolento pomeriggio di inizio Ottobre, durante il tour per una nuova campagna promozionale della Timberland.
Un omone che dimostra molto meno dei suoi 42 anni, Daze, taciturno eppure molto disponibile. Il tempo a disposizione è poco, dopo di noi c’è addirittura MTV… così partiamo subito con qualcosa di nostro e alcune domande suggerite da voi. Il risultato è un’ intervista da cui emerge un personaggio interessante per quello che pensa e dice, oltre naturalmente per ciò che dipinge.
Lasciamo il testo dell’intervista in inglese, per mantenerne integro lo spirito.
We would like to start by asking you something that comes naturally after travelling around the world and visiting any kind of modern art museum.
Why is Aerosol Art so poorly represented in the universe of “official art”? Why can’t we find Aerosol artists in the permanent collections of modern art museums?
Actually, lots of museums have examples of my work in their collections, but I think they are a little bit afraid to show them. You have to understand that museums are also political institutions and a lot of the people that put money into the museums and found the exhibitions are maybe the same sitting on anti-graffiti campaigns. It’s a very political matter. Those people wanna see the artists they support shown in the museums first. It is nothing that has really to do with art itself. It’s very very political, the decision about who gets shown in museum and who does not.
I had a lot of exhibitions in the past years, even in Italy, but not nearly as much as some of my contemporaries like Keith Haring or Jean Michelle Basquiat, that have never been really graffiti artists, true graffiti artists.
Anyway, I think that in the future the thing will change, eventually. In universities now when people are discussing the history of art they are also discussing of graffiti as an art form. Young people who knew our work 20 years ago are now in a better position to be able to do something, to have a voice. It’s an art work they respond to, it’s an art they are related to, so I think in the future things are really gonna change.
When you started painting graffiti, were you already thinking that art could be a lifestyle for you?
When did you realize that you could live on art?
In the beginning, none of us had an idea that one day we would show something in a gallery or in a museum, or even travel to Europe or doing something like that. People of my generation, who started in the early or mid seventies, never really thought that they could make a living from it. It was just something exciting to do.
Until the beginning of the eighties nobody thought that he could make money out of it, or even that someone could be interested in that. Only in 1981-1982 I started realizing that it might be possible to live from it. Some serious interest was arising about that. I took it seriously. Crash, Futura took it seriously, starting having exhibitions and thinking of ourselves as painters in a traditional sense.
What is the difference between you and other old-school writers that are still painting but that are not living on art?
I don’t think there are so many guys of my generation painting trains anymore, but there are a few guys still painting walls.
I think it is a really personal decision, whether trying to live on art or not. Many of those guys have a family. All of them have to pay the bills, and maybe they want to be secure, and they chose another job than art. I consider myself pretty lucky, and one of the reasons for which I consider myself lucky is that I started taking graffiti seriously in the very early beginning. Other people just took different paths.
Let’s talk about style. Rammelzee used to say that the “sigma” letter gave him the control over all the others letters, and this was making the difference between him and all the other writers. What are the elements making the difference between you and the other writers?
We might speak a lot about Rammelzee’s theories. I find them interesting, but I personally think they don’t have so much to do with me and my development.
I think one of the things making me different is that, from the very early beginning, I always combined figurative elements with style, and actually with wildstyle. It is something that I keep on doing in my paintings, even if I am not doing so much lettering anymore. Anyway, it is a combination of those two things making the difference. Figurative elements, as well as style.
How much is it still left in your art of what you were painting 20 years ago?
Oh, there was never a time when I stopped drawing letters. Even though I do not paint trains anymore, there was never a time when I stopped doing letters, or doing wildstyle.
Do you think that drawing letters is a science or an art form?
From my personal perspective, drawing letters is a kind of art. Science is too premeditated, when you think it in terms of theories and formulas. I think that drawing letters is very free. You never draw the same style more than once. It is always changing, it is always involving, it is always different.
A lot of writers, all around the world, are carrying on the classical NYC old school style.
What do you think about that? Do you think it is more important to evolve the style, or to keep close to the culture roots?
I think it is more important to continue to change and to continue to evolve.
Think about the whole history of this culture. Where would we be, if people didn’t go beyond just doing a tag? That’s pretty much the basis for everything, people making their signature, but if they just kept doing that, where would they be? The point of the whole culture is doing new things. That’s what keeps it interesting, that’s what it keeps it going.
That is what it keeps it alive.
Let’s talk about the media. What are your feelings about journalists, and people in general, talking about Writing without any kind of preparation about that after more than 30 years from it’s born?
I think that journalism without criticism is very unintelligent. If you are a good journalist, you should make a serious research about your topic, before you write about it. The kind of journalism you are referring to is very opinionated. They have already formed their opinion about the topic, and they only try to confirm it.
Anyway, I have the feeling that the journalists’ approach to graffiti is more intelligent now that twenty years ago. Twenty years ago, when someone was writing about graffiti, he was always trying to be sensational. “Art or vandalism?” was the most common headline. Nowadays, lots of books have been written about graffiti and it is much easier to learn about it. And journalists are asking much more intelligent questions.
What is the reaction of common people to graffiti, nowadays and twenty years ago, from your personal experience?
I think it really depends on where you are. Whether you are in NY or in another country, the reaction can be very different. I can tell you now that, when I was painting a wall twenty years ago in the Bronx, it didn’t matter what I painted. People would look at it and say “oh, it’s very good! Oh, it looks like he’s gonna paint a face! Oh, it’s so realistic!”.
Now that people everyday have seen so much graffiti in the public, painting in the Bronx can be tough. You can get some tough critics out of that. It happens that someone shouts at you “Hey, she doesn’t look like that!”. Anyway, I see that in general people is not against graffiti, at least in the Bronx. But it is a touchy question, it really depends on where you are.
One last thing. You are 42 years old. What people say, when they meet a 42 years old guy still handling spray cans?
There is not a very strong reaction. It doesn’t really matter how old you are. It matters what you do.