Pop and Surrealism in the work of Alessandro Calizza

Interview given by Alessandro Calizza, between Art and Social Criticism.

Pop and Surrealism in the work of Alessandro Calizza

Alessandro Calizza, born in 1983, is one of the most influential artists in the Roman contemporary art scene: since 2012 he has been able to amaze large audiences and critics organizing art evenings, personal exhibitions and performances both in Italy and abroad. Whether it concerns ancient Greek statues in “liquefaction” or buildings infested with fluorescent vines, his work moves between distinctly pop codes and atmospheres of surreal taste, imbued with a delicate artistic-sociological reflection.

The artist does a critical reflection through his artistic research, concerning the theme of the crisis of identity in the post-modern society, a crisis that involves art in a sensitive way, and questioning its very reason of existence several questions are generated. This process obviously involves the artistic sensitivity of Calizza, who, year after year, focuses on the danger of the progressive degeneration and degradation of art, which metaphorically resembles our society.

Here comes the interview given by the roman artist to FIRST Arte.

Calizza, let’s start immediately with a big question: what does it mean for you to Make Art?

“That’s really a big question. I think I have only two ways to answer: a stream of consciousness of a thousand pages or a couple of aphorisms I have written some time ago to try to give myself an answer to this matter. I’ll go with the second option.

Making art means expressing my Inner World. Leaving all of that inside me is just too much. It has to come out. Making art is doing politics. Those politics which have not given up on Beauty.”

Now I have for you a more trivial question, When and Why did you start making art?

“I can’t say. We could take in account many beginnings: the first drawing, the first graffiti in 1996, the first canvases where I tried to express an idea, the first exhibition and comparison with the World of Art which was totally unknown to me…
I always felt “out of place”, as if I were trying to walk on paths that didn’t suit me, sometimes even beautiful paths, but in which after a while it was easy for me to lose all interest.

Instead, when I work in my studio, I feel that everything resonates in the right way. I almost don’t perceive the physical barrier that divides me from the work of art I’m creating or from anything else. It’s in those moments that I feel I have “my place” in the order of things. I don’t know when it started, although what is certain is that I realized that I could not imagine for myself of any Plan B.”

Do you think there is a need for more art in Rome and Italy in the 21th century?

“It is a complex situation, also in relation to the many new possibilities with which everyone can convey their work. As with any other sphere, globalization and internet have given everyone the opportunity to say and define themselves as they wish to. Today, more than ever, an excellent public relations work is enough to be referred to as the (short-lasting) Future of Italian art. I think there are far too many exhibitions packed with “works of art” around, but I don’t know how many of these are truly art, at least according to what my personal idea of ​​art is. Today are very trendy those decorative works that do not embody any kind of criticism and do not make you reflect on anything.

Art, the real one, behaves as a mirror (both from a social and personal point of view) and many have neither the desire nor the courage to look straight at their own eyes. Facing the madness of this age requires much energy and almost nobody has the strength to do it, better to pretend nothing happened and distract ourselves in front of a beautiful useless canvas. There are so many talented artists, fortunately, but on the one hand there’s a system itself that doesn’t favour the talented ones and on the other hand there’s a harmful attitude of harsh competitiveness among the artists themselves, these two factors make a stimulating confrontation between the people of the art world very difficult to be put in place. So to sum it up, yes, I think there is a need for much more Art and less Decorative Stuff for the house of the rich.”

How do you usually get Inspiration?

“Everything can be of inspiration, it depends on the state of consciousness in which we are in and how we express our reality. My drive to create a work of art is born from the urge to tell something, even if there’s nobody who’s willing to listen. I feel the urgency to tell and shape dynamics in which we are daily immersed but which are often difficult to define, especially when we live everyday without the possibility to stop and realize what’s going on. It’s like being on a treadmill that goes at maximum speed, there is no time to ask or look around, you just have to run without questioning anythimg or you are screwed.

Art means taking the time to stop our meaningless daily run and reflect on our lives. What I want to communicate is my vision of things; my concern about the direction our age seems to have taken. We need to return to live reality with more awareness. We believe we live in an immutable system, so everything is unchangeable and has to be accepted without discussion, wrong, everything stays in a very precarious balance instead, it would take very little to make everything collapse and then maybe try to reconstruct it differently.”

After several artist residences, a bold collective performance at Maxxi, ancient etchings retouched with watercolours, restoring sculptures with golden glue, organizing art nights in Rome, creating sets for music videos and theater companies and having participated in city projects of artistic redevelopment…what projects do you have for the future?

“True, it has been a period full of artistic satisfaction. I have just returned from New York where I had my “Stoned exhibition” (It’s just a funny wordplay) belonging to the “Another Place Project” – New Mental Landscapes designed by Contesta Rock Hair. A truly positive experience. I also recently rented a second Art Studio, still in San Lorenzo near my first studio/home; I share it with Lulù Nuti, a talented artist who lives and works between Paris and Rome.

The most important appointment will surely be my next Solo Exhibition at one notorious Museum that I love very much; after the one at the Museum of Classical Art in Rome, I am excited to be able to make this exhibition, it will be a perfect way to deepen and complete the discourse on identity and society that I have been pursuing in my works for years now. At the moment, however, I cannot tell anything more, but simply because we are still defining the details of the project and I am a little superstitious!”

Since some titles of your past exhibitions are not that reassuring, for example I recall: “Fresh Meat”, “Global Warning”, “Oh Sheet!” and “Athens Burns”, what future do you wish for Art in general and for our contemporary society?

“I will say that we should not worry that much because Art always found its way to survive over the ages. Quite different is the discourse regarding our society. I find worrying the level of cultural degradation and dehumanization we have been brought to in the last decades. Most people are frustrated and unhappy, they live their lives meaninglessly like they would have another thousand of lives to spend.

Even here my answer could be really long. I think a new awareness is needed, rediscovering ourselves as a single humanity, which should take care of itself instead of going towards auto-destruction. In these regards art can truly do a lot: politics determine people’s lives, but it is also the people who can change politics and those who decide for them; this change can only pass through growing day by day as individuals thanks to Culture and the choice to become an active part of this process.”

Written and Translated by Gerardo Iannacci