I’m proud to announce an exhibition of the my serigraphs created between 1997 and 2006 in both America and at Centro Sociale Leoncavallo in Milan, Italy, preserved in the Leoncavallo Sperry archive, and on view for a new audience.
“Tana Per Chuck”
Friday February 26 – March 7
Centro Sociale Leoncavallo, 7 via Watteau, Milano, Italia
Opening Friday, February 26 at 17:00
Support Leoncavallo by passing by the serigraphy lab’s table.
“In March of the 2006 Chuck Sperry came to Milan in order to establish, during the period spring-summer, his project called the FIREHOUSE EUROPE. With Marcelo de la Hoz, and “sponsorship” from Vandalo, they renovated an area and created the equipment for screenprinting in a space of Centro Sociale Leoncavallo that was in disuse. It can be said that it was begun thus; the new silkscreen movement at Leoncavallo. Chuck, with your short passage in our home, you leave, but not only have you left sources of inspiration for us, and the spirit of silkscreen art: you have left also an artistic treasure, for all of us, of an immense value!” – Laboratorio Serigraphico del Leoncavallo
First opened in 1975, Centro Sociale Leoncavallo in Milan is one of Europe’s most historic, longest-running self-managed public spaces.
Leoncavallo has sent representatives to city of Milan and to the national legislature of Italy. More importantly, Leoncavallo has always supported and advanced the struggles of the people, offers free housing and free food, fought against injustice, and advanced the cause of freedom and equality. To me Leoncavallo has always represented a free cultural space where a community can share their ideas and creativity.
Leoncavallo was previously a giant printing factory squatted and transformed into an enormous public space with 10,000 square meters surrounding a green courtyard. It is a hub for street art, and has been called the modern day Sistine Chapel of graffiti. Countless events have been hosted at Leoncavallo for decades: huge concerts, theater, debates, and vast art exhibitions. When Naomi Klein (activist, author of “The Shock Doctrine”) visited Leoncavallo in 2001, she described it as “practically a self-contained city, with several restaurants, gardens, a bookstore, a cinema, an indoor skateboard ramp, and a club so large it was able to host Public Enemy when they came to town.”
In early 2006 I arrived to 7 via Watteau, Milano, Italia at the invitation of Leoncavallo to transform a 1000 square meter workshop down the hall from the giant concert hall into a screen print studio. Graffiti writers Vandalo and Marco Teatro introduced me and gave me support, while Elisa and Carmen of Leoncavallo guided my participation within the community. The idea was to create a print workshop that would be open to everyone, where creativity could be explored, and ideas could be sharpened. A print studio could produce art for the collective good, and for individual expression, and self-produce creativity and energy for the cultural life of Leoncavallo.
I was introduced to Marcelo de la Hoz, who I would work with for the next year to build the new print studio. I loved the man right away. First, of course, we went to the Baretto for a beer to talk. It’s funny to describe our communication as “talking” because Marcelo, the Argentino-Italiano and I had no common language. We understood each other perfectly. Even when Marcelo would tap me on the head and groan, “Understand?” and laugh, “It’s no use!” and laugh. We always laughed. And we worked. And we built. And we laughed a lot over beer and bar-b-q. But mostly we communicated through our shared labor.
We worked together on all the equipment that still is being used by Leoncavallo’s printers today. We built the light exposure unit. We built wheeled paper racks for drying posters – the string and wood racks were my design from my first studio in San Francisco. Marcelo repaired the t-shirt printing carousel, and shirt drying rack. In a few weeks we created the print studio, made through sweat and commitment and shared with everybody from the moment it was finished.
We built the studio together creating the auto-production zone in Leoncavallo. Marcelo and I never missed the Wednesday evening meeting, though we preferred to sit by the bar and not often at the table of the committee. We understood the print workshop should always show its face within the collective, even if we made rare use of our voice. I believe the only Italian words I voiced at the committee was in defense of the importance of the continuation of cultural events at Leoncavallo to bring life to our work for people. Our voice in the group was our creativity and cultural production.
It’s clear to me (and everyone) that Marcelo was a master printer. He knew how to get things done. He organized with bicycle activists making shirts and posters for demonstrations. I learned Marcelo’s great story of commitment to social causes which he learned though his family and childhood in Argentina. Marcelo’s mastery of printing and art came from his big generous heart and quick mind.
I made rock concert posters here in Milan, the same kind you will see in this exhibition. I made posters for political causes here in Milan, like “This Is Our City, And We Can Shut It Down” which hangs in the cafeteria. I attended art events and poster shows in cultural outreach from Leoncavallo in Milan to the UK, France, Germany, Serbia, Greece and Switzerland. I invited artists home to Milan from these places. The life of the centro sociale expands with its friends.
My posters in this archive which stay with Leoncavallo are my gift to the community which supported my greatest growth and deepest friendships.
In 2012, I was invited to Argentina by my printing student Santiago Pozzi to speak at Trimarchi Design Festival (the biggest design conference in the Spanish speaking world). I accompanied the cultural minister of the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas, from San Francisco to Buenos Aires and then to Mar del Plata in Argentina. The both of us were to speak to a stadium sized crowd presenting our art. Emory was undoubtedly the historically important artist and I was a warm-up band. We really put on a good pair of inspiring lectures that day in Argentina.
Marcelo grew up in Mar del Plata, and his family is still there. He flew to Mar del Plata from Milan to visit family, but also to surprise me – six years into the life of our friendship and work together at the workshop at Leonka. Santiago took me to a football bar. We were watching Lionel Messi on the television above the door. In walks Marcelo to hug me laughing, I will always remember him in this moment, ready to go to the far end of the world for a friend. Cheers!