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Thursday, June 16, 2022

GECO in Rome: Art or Egotism?


The building in the photo is a public market on Via Magna Grecia (we wrote 10 years ago about the market and Morandi), not from the the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano. It was designed by Riccardo Morandi, a well-known and admired engineer in his day, whose reputation has since been tarnished by the collapse in 2018 of the "Morandi" bridge in Genoa, which Morandi also designed. The circular parking ramp at the far end of the building--not visible in the photo--is nothing short of lovely. But in light of the Genoa debacle, it has been closed.

The letters at the top/end of the building are not part of Morandi's design. They are work of Lorenzo Perris, a 32-year-old Roman who until 18 months ago was anonymous, known only for the letters GECO--Perris's "tag." Over the last few years, Perris has done his GECO thing on hundreds of buildings, most of them in Rome and some in Lisbon. Sometimes with paint, but more often with paste-ups. The letters on Morandi's building are most likely large paste-ups. He also uses smaller stickers on signs--and anything else he can find to affix them to.  

A GECO sticker on a motor scooter, outside our apartment on  via Tuscolana

Perris, who resides in the Via Prenestina area of Rome, has recently been accused of damaging many of Rome's buildings with his tags. Just how many buildings have been "damaged" is not clear, nor is the extent of the damage, but the legal complaint filed against Perris charges that his work has appeared on the Central State Archive building, on the benches along the Tevere near Porta Portese, on the Arch of Quattro Venti, in Villa Pamphili, in Via Ardeatine, and at the Parco degli Acquedotti (Park of the Aqueducts -- #2 on RST's Top 40), among many others. Authorities claim to have confiscated some 13,000 of his works. 

In the San Lorenzo quarter

The authorities, and the folks at the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero, not only believe Perris's GECOs to be damaging, but they are convinced that his "bombing" is entirely lacking in artistic merit. 

Perris seems to agree with the critics. In 2018, when interviewed during a sojourn in Lisbon--Rome having become too "hot," a place where he was more likely to be caught (and identified), even though he works only at night or at dawn--Perris admitted to being a "bombardier," whose style did not differ from city to city. 

"I want to spread my name," he added, more than to develop and sharpen an aesthetic sensibility. "The prime objective of the aggressor [that is, him] is quantity....My objective is to be everywhere and be seen and known by everyone. I see graffiti as a sport--an illegal one. It's as if I were a superhero; the more one is exposed, the more one must be anonymous. The world of graffiti is pure egocentrism, in my case a veritable megalomania. I want to attract the attention of everyone and to provoke feelings, whether of love or hate."


Graffiti GECO, 2020

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