the indians (exhibition, 2010)

Street artists strike fast and tellingly. Often unexpected, sometimes on the quiet, sometimes with a bang, they storm the walls and other preemptable surfaces on which to leave their compositions and signatures or tags. These artists armed with the patience to work in the unpredictable conditions that reign in the urban jungle, and furnished with the best intentions to make the quotidian more colorful and interesting hide under picturesque names like those taken by the Red Indians – Flying Fortress, Aorta, Somnambulist, Hare, Eye, Puma 34, Horse’s Head…

The descriptive names indicate a different identity – always different from the identity that can be fitted into expected social patterns. Under one name, the authors are educated, go about their daily jobs, their usual citizens’ occupations, and under the zanier other name work on the street art scene. Often we know them only by these names, and they become, in the absence of any knowledge of their full biography and appearance, the only correlative of their works and specific styles.

Marko Prpić aka ZETS has been a feature of the Zagreb graffiti scene
for almost two decades. He long since achieved prominence on it for his skill and characteristic stylistic morphology featuring a weird interweaving of fantastic and surreal characters. The facility with which the real, the possible and recognizable takes on the a negative prefix, the conviction with which the author joins and metamorphoses the different elements into a single fantastic whole provides him a great capacity to develop new thematic interests and to build
upon his craft skills.

His current interest is in presenting the men and women artists of his cohort who are at work on the Croatian and international street art / graffiti scene. He has chosen fifteen of them with whom, with the exception of just one, Fefa Talavera of Brazil, he has done joint murals or worked together in one way or another. These are personalities that for given reasons took his fancy, and he determined to express this closeness through portraits.

Their untypical manner of working, which we mentioned at the beginning, induced him to adopt an untypical procedure. Marko does not start off from a description of their physical appearance, although it is to some extent present in the pictures, but summarises the most essential factors of their style and quotes their works. He himself agrees that when he recalls one or another of them or when someone mentions them, the first thing that comes to his mind is their work and not their face.

Filtering them through his own visual personality, the artist confirms his authentic creative idiom and aesthetic commitment, creating at the same time a cross-section of a generation, and a cross-section of his own activity within it. Reacting to emotion, experiencing other people’s work, Marko convincingly balances between his own vision, the features of his own style that he interweaves with the style and/or character of his fellows.

The portraits, apart from being a tribute to the individual artists, the modern Red Indians of the current art scene, also manifest a principle, the way in which we internalise some work. This principle is not established on a simple reflection of the mere appearance of the work, but is produced in an encounter of complex, polysemous realities and personalities – of author and of observer. Alongside a happily adroit embedding and interweaving of different styles and narrations, also worth pointing out is the readability with which Marko demarcates his personal points of departure, giving space enough to self and others, those portrayed, as well as those who with their own perception of the depicted will create a new reading, a new judgement.

Barbara Vujanović

Translation: Graham McMaster