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A Catania museum opens its doors to street art

by Camilla Tagliabue

Exhibitors include the guy who barely missed being jailed in Germany and someone from the Franco-Tunisian banlieue of Paris; an artist prematurely killed by AIDS and others who started “working” when they were six or thirteen on the walls and trains of the Bronx: all of them chose the street as a museum for their artwork.

Now, the museum is opening its doors to them, welcoming the prodigal sons of street art.

The “bards of globalization” are on show in Catania, in an exhibition called “Source Codes,” supported by the Terzo Pilastro Foundation – Italy and the Mediterranean – and curated by the 999Contemporary art gallery.

Over 50 names and over 30 years of urban art, from the graffiti legends of 1980s New York to such emerging European artists as Vhils, i.e. Alexandre Farto, Portuguese, born in 1987.

This young “aesthete of vandalism” has been called upon to create, among other things, the largest mural in the world, standing as tall as a ten-story building and as wide as a soccer field and depicting the Mediterranean icon par excellence: a man looking towards the sea.

This man will stand guard over the Sicilian coast, towering over the silos of Catania harbor.

Just as young is Foggia-born Agostino Iacurci, barely thirty, enlarging the far-from-scarce group of Italian artists: Piedmont's 108; Bo130 and Moneyless from Milan; Sten Lex, the Rome-Taranto duo who pioneered Italy's own Urban Stencil; Microbo, Sicilian by birth, who chose London as her adoptive home; the highly reputed Ericailcane; the Venetian sculptor of light, Peeta; Eron the veteran, active since the '90s and the very first to have painted a mural in a church, like some postmodern Michelangelo.

American artists are also numerous, particularly from New York, where street art actually began, many decades ago: exhibits include work by A-One; CRASH; DELTA2; Dondi White; Doze Green; Dominique Philbert a.k.a. ERO; the FAILE collective; Futura 2000; Gaia, an artist featured in Forbes; JonOne; Judith Supine (the pseudonym is borrowed from the artist's mother; the artist has chosen to maintain anonymity); Kool Koor; Mark Jenkins; Maya Hayuk; MOMO; Rammellzee; Retna; Aaron “Sharp” Goodstone; Swoon; Todd James a.k.a. REAS; Torrick Ablack, alias Toxic; cult artist Shepard Fairey, also known as Obey, author of the iconic poster in support of Obama's candidacy for President of the United States [in 2008]; Brad Downey, who famously sprayed the windows of a shopping mall in Berlin with green paint, and was nearly arrested – though he claimed he “was merely fulfilling his contract”, and was thus freed.

These street artists' biographies are all tales of redemption: urban rebels who eventually wound up in the collections of flush gallerists, working for sophisticated luxury and fashion brands and exhibiting all over the world.

(“Source Codes. Contemporary Urban Visions,” Palazzo Platamone, Catania, up to January 18)