In a world where pop culture and fine art are becoming more and more closely intertwined, artist Mario Loprete has found a unique niche. Marrying his love of hip-hop iconography with the enduring medium of concrete, he has cultivated a portfolio of truly distinctive pieces. As soon as this Italian-borne artist could pick up a pencil, he became a diligent student of the arts. He’s worked with all manner of tools and canvases, but says he has found his voice in the form of concrete canvas.
We caught up with Mario to learn a little bit about what makes him and his intriguing art tick. Unfortunately for Mario, we do not have a native Italian speaker on staff, and so we would like to apologize to our readers and the esteemed artist for any errors in translation that appear in his statements below.
My name is Mario Loprete. I am 49 years old and I was born in Catanzaro. I am married and I have a wonderful 14 year-old son, Francesco.
I live six hours from New York, exactly the duration of the flight from the nearest airport Lamezia Terme. One flight will take me to the Big Apple, the El Dorado for those who, like me, do art seriously and professionally.
I am an outgoing, talkative and very positive person. I always set goals a bit bigger than those that preceded them, because I believe that by immediately realizing the big dreams in life, you risk losing that desire and that longing that makes you feel alive.
As a child I started to draw before I could speak because my vocabulary was focused on images. At school, at home, everywhere, I always drew. This served to speed up my hand and stroke. Design, for me, has never been just the means to reproduce from a picture or from the truth. It has always been a continuous search for the form of things, their essence, their soul. In all my daily activities, I look at the things that surround me, mentally tracing the contours and looking for escape points from where everything starts or where everything comes.
Artistically I formed myself as a self-taught person, studying the history of art and the great masters in an aseptic way, without external contamination. I went to a shop for six years by a master from Catanzaro, from whom I learned a lot. Until 2002 I was traveling around Calabria to paint from life, with the main purpose of speeding up the hand and acquiring technique, fighting against the time that changed lights and colors. Then I realized I was missing something inside; I felt a feeling of emptiness. At 34 I decided to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts in Catanzaro, aware that to give more depth to my work I needed to compare myself with other artists, exchange experiences and seek new stimuli.
In February 2007 I finished my studies and I came out enriched and very motivated.
The desire to do is very great. I get up in the morning and I want to paint. I go to bed late at night and feel empty and I think another day spent searching for the force in my work, because I have never tried to be and become a fashion painter of the moment.
I strive to dwell on the pictorial and content quality.
My subjects are those who the Western market has cleared through customs, for their music, for their art, for sports performances that send millions of people into raptures: they have broken the chains and now they put the ball inside.
Those behind have an ancient history of prejudice and marginalization.
Even today, if someone saw them outside their environment, they would call them non-EU citizens.
I am terribly and morbidly attracted to people, I portray them with the utmost emotional intensity. The human figure is fascinating to portray, a real challenge. I am looking for the right people, the very expressive ones, who are in my humble opinion, the incarnation and the materialization of the soul.
My research leads me to document the stereotypes that crowd the music genre, of which I “feed” while I paint.
The subjects of my paintings take shape from photos that I take personally or download from the internet. I process them to the computer and delete what ‘for me is superfluo. I have a database of 5000 photos divided by artist, photo cut, social theme, projects for future exhibitions, etc.
I really like to portray Ja Rule, Xzibit, The Game, Mary J Blige, Beyonce, 50 Cent and all the rappers of the Italian hip-hop scene.. Many Italian rappers know my work and ask me to make a portrait of them. This thing is a source of pride and pride for me and my work.
The realization of my works is classical. After having drawn the very detailed drawing, I pass to the oil color and veils after veiling arrive at the final result
When the finished painting is perfectly dry, I pass on a particular paint that can not only link all the colors and shades, but gives the work the brilliance and lucidity of the poster, that each of us has had attached to the wall of his bedroom.
About 10 years ago, I felt that my work needed a promotional boost. Visiting cities like Milan or Rome, you come across billboards as big as the buildings that host them. So I asked myself, why not paint real and recognizable metropolitan views, replacing advertising with my B-boy?
The result was very successful. I have insinuated the doubt about the veracity of the billboard or how I managed to paint a picture of such considerable size.
The new series of cement works is the one that has given me more personal and professional satisfaction. It was the result of an important investigation into my work in search of that “quid” that I felt was missing. Looking at my work over the last 10 years, I realized that there was semantics and semiotics in my visual discourse, but I lacked the right support to enhance them.
Concrete was created two thousand years ago by the Romans. It has a thousand-year history, used to create amphitheaters, bridges and roads that have conquered the ancient and modern world. Now it is the synonym of modernity. Wherever you go and you come across a reinforced concrete wall, there is the modern man.
From Sydney to Vancouver, from Oslo to Pretoria, reinforced concrete is present and therefore the ideal support is available where artist can express themselves and express themselves.
The next step for me was obvious. If man brought art into the street so that it could be enjoyed by everyone, why not take urban art into galleries and museums? It was the winning step in the continuous evolutionary process of my work, that quid that I mentioned before that is leading me to exhibit in prestigious places and be requested by important collections.
I attempted for some time to make graffiti and I immediately understood that I make graffiti like crap. But in my way, for a series of works on reinforced concrete I make monochromatic, essential, direct graffiti. Their particularity? They hang.
During the inauguration of my exhibitions , I like to let my paintings live in a 360° hip-hop atmosphere. Not being a B-boy, I rely on friends, breakers of Catanzaro that galvanize the evening with ball music, graffiti and evolutions that have nothing to envy their American colleagues for authenticity and skill. It really excites me to see gentlemen and ladies not in my tender age, to stretch and move trying to keep up the pace. I noticed immediately that the visitors of the exhibition observe my works with a different eye, they feel them vibrating from the walls. This is my message and I am very lucky to see it received, without the mediation of critics and curators who applaud who knows what an abstruse thought to describe what is easy to see.
Catanzaro to tell the truth does not offer many stimuli for traditional art, but many for hip-hop.
In Calabria systematically underestimates the “local artists”, as we are applauded by the few serious collectors, so unfortunately we are forced to emigrate.
But as far as writing is concerned, the boys are in turmoil, the result of the experience of colonizing some students who have returned to the city, and now they are living what 10 years ago their contemporaries lived in Milan, Rome and Turin. I am pleased to see that as a provincial town, Catanzaro is turning into a metropolitan urban outpost.
When my cycle “Black” was born in 2002, it was born with the hope that it would be only the first step of a much wider project that will lead me to investigate the world of Italian hip-hop, French parkour, skateboarding and BMX.
Everything was preparatory to start a series, to which I care a lot, in which to portray Italian rappers during their domestic life, to give the work that intimacy that a life in the spotlight has deprived them. From these lines I appeal to those who feel part of my world to offer themselves as a model to paint. I look for the established and not rappers, to question themselves as a normal person, who lives his normalcy.
I could cite episodes and anecdotes that happened to me by playing important audiences, but my happy thought, which I really love remembering and reporting, did not happen far from where you live.
I was years old to paint all day in impromptu in a small village in Calabria. Immediately a couple of curious people approached and observed the design phase of the painting. Then slowly people increased and around 7 o’clock in the evening behind me I had most of the souls who inhabited that small center that excited me urged and stimulated my creativity. A feeling of exaltation like this leaves you in an indelible mark. He marked me on fire.
I have participated in many exhibitions, in many competitions, but I am convinced that the winning of a prize, of ten prizes, does not change your life if you do not have the work force behind, that force that will sustain you when the descending parable will inevitably start .
Certainly in my life I will not write pages of art history, I will not participate in the Venice Biennale, I will not exhibit my works at MOMA in New York, but I am sure I will have given my painting, my painting, narcissistically speaking .
For the next year I am preparing a series of personal exhibitions in which the common denominator is the world and the metropolitan culture. Alterno, the use of the classic canvas as a support for a new one that intrigues me very much: the military camouflage canvas. The speech of mimesis fascinates me as I think it underlines well that there are those who commit and those who prevent crime, those who have expiated and those who escape.
As in the Matrix, my B-boys live their lives.
A sort of Sims, in which each of us is nobody, but part of everything.
The search for my identity, which relies on the classic topos of “know thyself,” is treated through the complicated relationship between me and my B-Boys, in which the B-boys have taken the upper hand over me by enslaving and substituting themselves to me: now I am no longer able to distinguish myself from my characters, and this leads me to lose the consciousness of the ego.
For the future I have in mind a lot of exciting and exciting projects … but their description saves me for the interview that Forbes will conduct in 2068 and for the cover that I will dedicate to become the richest centenarian artist on the planet.