NUMERO QUATTRO - HOOD14

NUMERO QUATTRO - HOOD14

Anna, Sasha and I meet in Porta Venezia, Milan, where Hood14 gave us the appointment. He greets us with his clothes all stained, but not by sprays: he is coloring the joints of a floor with a marker because the worker who installed the tiles got the color of the grout wrong. He puts on his Usual football jersey for the shooting and then we sit down in one of those bars that sells natural wines because the less hipster one is closed.

Anna: The first question I wanted to ask you is about Venice, how did it inspire you?

Hood14: It's not the city itself that inspires me, but it's the folkloristic use of the mask. I like to research not the real handmade masks of Venice, but the fake plastic ones with crazy colours produced in Marghera, I often take the colours from there. The discourse of the mask is obviously to cover identity: Venice was a city of casinos, brothels, a very rich city, where people passed by, but there was also the church. People did not only wear masks for Carnival, they also wore "baude" masks regularly. They had a small beak that allowed people to smoke and eat, so there was never the need to take it off. Religious people or famous people who came to town to go whores and gambling often wore them. Obviously this matter of covering the identity goes along with graffiti. Even the shapes of the letters come from the decorations of the masks on the cheekbones, above the eyes, under the mouth, on the chin. Then of course it is also a subject of my puppets in the graffiti and the eye shape also remains in the other characters, even in the canvases. From all this comes the letter H of the throw-up. I really like to see writers or artists take inspiration from the place where they are born, it's a fetish for me.


Venice was also very helpful because as a city strongly visited for the Biennale or because Venice must be seen at least once in a lifetime, beside the historical crews of the city I grew up watching writers from all over the world, Clint, Sonik and a lot of others. At the same time I was seeing the stuff that the PALs were posting on Facebook and I realised what my direction was. Mestre has a tradition of wildstyle graffiti that is very New York, they also had links with Cope2, but I never spent much time there, indeed at the beginning it caused me a bit of anxiety because I didn't know how to do that stuff. However then I became friends with Flame who had a more fresh and more modern style. He's one of the coolest and one of the most present there. It always excited me to see our pieces close together because of the difference of style!


Sasha: What limit do you have with the figurative and the letter?

Hood14: There is a limit I want to follow which is that of the construction of the letter. I always draw the letter first and then integrate the figurative part which has just to be decorative, I don't want to lose the graffiti tradition. For example in the throw-up the H suited well to become eyes in the upper part and feet in the lower part and so it becomes a puppet, a little demon, but it is always an H. I never start from the puppet to get to the letter, eventually I separate them completely. For a while I also integrated them like ornaments as it was done in Art Nouveau, but with a more Venetian Baroque taste. I always use gold a lot for this same reason.

Anna: On tl_lt's page there are some old golden panels, already like from 2016...

Hood14: I never understood why writers prefer silver to gold!

And then OG, which is my crew, also means Oro Giallo (Yellow Gold), so I've always preferred gold. There was a time when I also used bronze but it's less... rich! In fact gold has a precise symbolism, it's when you come first. Then there is also the fact of being a bit different, trying not to be boring: everyone uses silver, I use gold. When I was in Mestre, my production was almost exclusively on panels and I used to dedicate the leftovers to throw-ups. Once I found myself doing a gold outline and even there I found it to be a nice vibe. Since I've been in Milan I've almost only been doing throw-ups in the street, I like to choose the shutter with the stylish outline. I'm almost getting to a point where I only want to do throw-ups.

 

Anna: Yours characters often repeat, like the stripper, the old man, the cigarette butt, are they inspired by someone real?

Hood14: Yes, absolutely. As for the mask, Venice is a city that has a very strong duality and I love this. Of course the historical centre of Venice is beautiful, but right next to it there is Mestre, which is a city completely fallen into ruin, it's full of junkies, the European capital of heroin. Once in winter, just outside the yard, we found a guy completely closed up in his sleeping bag. We thought he was a dead body or, worse, a masked cop. Then we touched him and he moved, luckily he was a homeless man and he was alive! It is very fascinating that before entering Venice you pass through this port city, super-criminal, forgotten: there is all this preamble before arriving in the total beauty. So here again the duality remains in the graffiti pieces: the letters that are sumptuous, baroque, but with the sick subject on the side.



Andrea: Do you have any graffiti tales to tell us?

Hood14: We're in the centre of Trento, so it's like the safest place in Italy, painting a piece along the line in the afternoon. We were inside the sound barriers of an elevated line and we could be seen by practically all the trains. In fact, at some point we saw the cops coming, both on one side and the other, and we were locked in the line by the barriers. We all start running towards the nearest security door. We go out, but it was too high to jump, so we ran back towards another door, practically running at the cops. We go out this other door and there was like five metres of jump, but in that situation you just go for it. And anyway, luckily it was grass underneath. There was the barbed wire before we could jump, so I took off my puffer and to push it down to get everyone through, there were five of us. I was the last one, bu when I was about to jump , the cops opened the door, like two metres away from me! I did a frontflip and hung there with the cop shouting at me: "No, you're going to hurt yourself!" I drop and fall into the garden of a house with the others. We climb over the gate and are in the city centre, there were women with pushchairs, children playing, it was a mess. A cop car comes along and closes the road with its front, and four cops get out. One pulls out a gun and says 'STOP OR I SHOOT YOU'. I jump over the front of the cops' car in a Starsky and Hutch kind of move, a guy comes in front of me, I give him a push, turn around and start running. The guy then chased a friend of mine, threw the kick of the gun at his head and in the end he was the only one caught. We hid the whole day in an abandoned place because from the bushes we could see the cars driving around.

Anna: You changed your tag three times, but there was always a double letter.

Hood14: That's another fetish I'm into, it's an aesthetic choice. At first I liked to do the two letters the same in a different way. It definitely gets you in trouble, especially the double O is boring, but I often play with it, in the end it can be a puppet. In the zine you can see when the two O's have become frames for two paintings.



Sasha: Do you have non-writing references?

Hood: Absolutely yes, my references are never other graffiti letters, but rather an imagery, I speak mainly as a painter. Graffiti has always helped me a lot for colour tests for canvases and also the subjects I paint I find late at night when I am out painting graffiti. I take a lot from other painters, my favourite is Kirchner, German Expressionism in general, French Impressionism, Touluse-Lautrec, while in the contemporary I really like Kai Althoff. Many of my favourite writers are also good artists.


Andrea: And why do you think good writers are good artists?

Hood14: I always feel that painters who are not writers are missing something. I always like that Caravaggio thing that the guy is also a criminal. I think if you want to make art there has to be a risk part, you have to pay a token, you have to compromise yourself.

Hood14's stroke becomes more and more blurred, less clean, contrary to the graffiti discipline of the New York school of the 1980s. His sincerity resembles that with which Francesco Guardi painted Venice. He is a less well-known colleague of the celebrated vedutista Canaletto, that used to depict the city without idealising it. It is their directness that unites them and it is also what could be reproached by those who trivially think that art is mere beauty of the shapes. But those who have the will to listen might also find that those black clouds looming from the northern lagoon attract him like a storm chaser. Hood14 will be showing you the centre of the storm on the 9th of May at the opening of his next solo exhibition, the floor joints should be the right color.

 

 

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