“When I make a mistake, I find a new way to move forward”
Defi Gagliardo reflects on his career as an artist, the transition from streets to galleries, the art market and his solo show in UNION, titled “Fuck I Missed”.
I studied and taught at UBA for three years. We made the magazine FASE, which was super anti-academic. So much so, it went full circle and teachers began to use it. The first edition was published in black and white, the idea was to challenge the way design was taught. We reviewed the contents of each design course, so students could choose the way they learnt. It was our way of taking revenge on the way the system was organised.
My time at university inspired me to do the exact opposite of what we were taught. I think studying graphic design challenges you in a different way to other visual arts programs, because you have to focus more on the concept. The design course I took was very prescriptive. I butted heads a lot.
From 2001, I was painting constantly. I was careful about choosing walls… we used walls in a similar way to how Facebook is used today. We’d use walls to communicate something, like the launch of one of our magazines. I believe that social networks have killed creativity, or at least mine. Today, people find out information through their computers rather than on the streets…. and that’s something I can’t adapt to. I grew up in another world.
Graffiti stopped exciting me when it became a competition to see who’s best. That’s when the concept was lost for me. To replace painting in the streets, I made the transition to painting in galleries. I began spending less time painting in the street and more in the studio, and after a while, I found the street obsolete. From 2004 to 2009 I had the opportunity to travel a lot and paint.
My artistic career is a bit strange. I started working with galleries outside the country before I started working with local galleries. It was around 2008 or 2009 when gallery owners started advising me on how to exhibit my work. I think a lot about how the show will be presented before I start to paint.
It took a long time for urban art to reach galleries, and when it did I was no longer a part of it. I’m aware that my work changed during this period and turned towards fine art. Street art’s arrival has been great in some contexts, it’s reached a lot of people. Whilst there’s a market for it elsewhere in the world, I don’t think it will really thrive here. The market depends on a socioeconomic model that we don’t have. It’s still a small niche in Argentina.
My work can’t be described as being just one thing. I got recognition in the street for painting cats, but I was very active in other ways as well. I used to put stickers on supermarket shelves, then I would advertise them on the street with posters I’d put up that said, “Visit the exhibition in the cookie aisle”.
I started experimenting with moments frozen in time. Like frames in a film. That’s when my work diversified and I began making my boxes, each of which contains a story that develops as I build the scene. I look at the boxes as a way to capture the fragility of a moment. Each box takes a lot of time to make, selecting the components, sanding the wood, wiring the electrical circuits. I make all of it myself.
Creating a collage means experimenting until you find the elements that fit. I like doing puzzles, trying to find faces in things. Maybe they are ideas or memories that I’ve lost somewhere, and I’m looking for ways to visualise them. I made collage faces for my exhibition “Fuck, I Missed”, and also donkeys using a similar technique. In all of my exhibitions there’s always a donkey chasing a carrot, a sort of symbolic representation of the dynamic between work and deception. But the whole concept came about by accident, while I was messing about with the elements of the piece.
I’ve known Pedro (Perelman) for years. We make music together, and we painted a piece for this show based on a track made. We understand each other very well when we’re working, but wanted to exhibit something different from our collaborations painting walls. This is the first time we’ve painted on canvas together.
My paintings are an explosion of energy and all its layers. Some are more subtle and hidden. I might draw something then paint over it, but there is always something that can be found. I call my abstract works “scribbles”, and I’ve mainly worked with primary colours for my latest exhibition. The mistakes are always clear in my work, and when I make them, I find a new way to move forward.
“Fuck, I Missed” is a celebration of error, and a celebration of chaos. It is trash and harmony. The challenge for me is to drive the composition towards an aesthetic balance, until it borders on chaos. The rest is instinct.
Interview by Ana Laura Montenegro