Thursday 5 December 2013

10 Question Column: French Conceptual Artist Alexis Rero

French artist Alexis Rero at Wunderkammern Gallery in front of a new work before the opening of his show.
French conceptual artist Alexis Rero new exhibition Supervised Independence has just opened at Wunderkammern Gallery in Rome. He talks to Jeanne-Marie Cilento about his work and life in our 10 Question Column and is photographed just before the opening of his show by Andreas Romagnoli

SUPERVISED Independence is Rero’s first show in Italy and the title is an oxymoron the artist uses to examine society with a series of rhetorical sentences. Alexis Rero made his mark as a street artist creating ironic, dystopian phrases on walls in abandoned spaces and erecting wooden letters in beautiful open fields in the French countryside as three-dimensional sculptures. His signature is a line crossing through words suggesting both a question mark and a negation of meaning.

He replaced traditional stylised graffiti letters with clear, bold letters that enhance the provocative one-liners designed to play with stereotypes and the phrases that infiltrate our lives from the internet. Some of the works in his new show are like abstract expressionistic paintings recalling the weathered, distressed walls he worked on as a street artist. Others are experiments with new materials and different forms of wordy installation.

The young artist did not start out life as a street kid but completed a Masters degree in Social Economy and Business Management at the Université Paris 2 and then studied graphic design at the London College of Communication. Rero has had exhibitions in Europe and the USA and is becoming well known for his pieces in both public, urban spaces and natural environments. Most of his work does revolve around language, either as single words or phrases designed to engage the viewer in their particular context. 

While he was in Rome, Rero created public works in different locations around the city, including a wall at the Roma Tre University with NUFactory and a collaboration with the French Institute of Saint-Louis where he left a permanent installation at Largo Toniolo 22.

1. What have you been working on?
I have been finishing work creating oxymorons for my exhibition in Rome. Indeed, if contradictions are not much appreciated at school, they are important issues of our time: Fair Trade, Positive Decay, Creative Destruction, Sustainable Development, Silent Metropolis etcetera...

2. What inspires you for your creative work now?
I like walking, traveling... moving as much as I can in the city, in the countryside, in abandoned places ... I feed myself especially by travelling and meeting with people. I use art as an excuse to go to meet people and to discover new ways of approaching the world.

3. How did you choose Street Art and installations as your creative metier?
As a teenager, for me graffiti represented a first contact with art and creative expression in general. When I was older, I felt increasingly cramped by graffiti with its codes and techniques, and I wanted to keep this initial energy, and change the medium to give myself new opportunities. So I naturally turned to outdoor installations with different media.

4. Can you describe the experience, person or training that has had the greatest impact on your artistic career?
When I met Tania Mouraud! She taught me a lot and she contributes greatly to my development in both human and artistic aspects. I admire her approach, her career and her radicalism.

5. What do you find the most challenging aspect of your work?
The choice of media and its context. As a matter of fact, my intervention is intended to be as "poor" as possible without a context. When this latter is placed in relationship with my intervention my proposal attempts to make sense. Things are created thanks to this interaction. Alone, they are nothing.

6. Where do you like to draw or create your initial ideas for your artwork?
Moving! I always have a sketch-book with me! It is even more important than my external hard disk. This is my future memory while my external drive saves my past history. It records all the lines and directions that I will explore in the future.

7. Do you have a set schedule of working creatively everyday or is the process more fluid?
I work on project and/or residence. I do not have a particular schedule of work as a painter.

8. What part of Street Art and/or creating installations gives you the most happiness and which other artists inspire you?
I love the activity of interacting with an environment. I like the work of Mark Jenkins, Baptist Debombourg, OX, Borris Tellegen and so on...

9. Is there a town or place in the world you find inspiring?
No city, no country in particular ... Each place gives me new energy and helps me to understand new directions.

10. In our digital age what do installations give us as an art form and how do you define contemporary art?
Installations are able to immerse the viewer into the world of the artist and they provide a warmer and more sensual relationship than digital media enables. Installations question the ephemeral and the boundaries between the real and the virtual, and these are important aspects in my work. But I use digital tools to build my installations.

Supervised Independence is open at the Wunderkammern Gallery until January 25th 2014 at Via Gabrio Serbelloni 124 in Rome. For more information visit:

Click on photographs for full-screen slideshow
The artist stands beneath one of his installations at Wunderkammern gallery in Rome.

Rero in front of one of his new works "Digital Dark Age" at his latest exhibition.

Untitled (Nothing to see here) Mixed media on canvas. Diptych 2013. 200 x 120cm

Untitled ( Obsolescenza programmata) From the series E-Book. ook under resin, adhesive letters, framed. 2013 52.5 x 52.5cm

Untitled (Damnatio Memoriae) From the series Condemnation of Memory. Neon Light 2013.  20 x 330cm

A distressed niche at Wunderkammern filled with Rero's wooden letters

Most of Rero's work revolves around language, either as single words or phrases designed to engage the viewer in their particular context. 

Untitled (Meglio appassionato di belle ragazze che di gay). From the series "Positive Discrimination." Pasta, adhesive letters and frame. 2013 41.5 x 51.5cm

Rero in front of his installation at Wunderkammern: Untitled (I panni sporchi si lavano in casa). Mixed media (frames, canvas, wood, nails).  2013

Untitled (Perdita di memoria). Mixed media on canvas. Diptych 2013. 200 x 120cm 

Untitled (Digital dark Age) form the series "contemporary Roman Ruins". Mixed media on wood. 2013 106 x 126.5 cm 

Untitled (I panni sporchi si lavano in casa). Mixed media (frames, canvas, wood, nails).  2013 

Alexis Rero working on creating one of his outdoor installations in France: "Google Street View". 

Rero's completed though-provoking installation in a green field

Created in an abandoned building, Rero's work on a colourful, dessicated wall.

"Not Found" resonates as an ironic phrase in a derelict church.

Rero plays with slogans and phrases we are constantly subject to on the internet. 

"It wasn't me" ~ another of Rero's interventions in an abandoned space that captures the street artist's danger of being caught by city authorities.

In a contemporary world where everything and nothing can be considered art, Rero writes a well-placed rhetorical comment: "Is this Art?'

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