Super Bowl LVIII, one commercial after another
For the twelfth episode of IN STUDIO, we went to the studio of Bo130 and Microbo, two iconic artists who have shaped the landscape of urban art. Bo130, born in Milan in 1971, forged his unique style in the ’80s, inspired by punk and Hip-Hop, amalgamating his tag with the iconic stylized crab. His layered works are a lysergic journey into an alien’s archive of memory, constantly expressing the sensation of being out of place in “normality”. A long-time collaborator of Microbo, Bo130 has entered the institutional art scene with exhibitions in museums and galleries. Microbo, born in Catania in 1970, describes herself as a “citizen of planet Earth and a microbe of the universe”. Her artistic language focuses on the search for the invisible as nourishment for the soul, creating an ancestral organic alphabet of microbiotic creatures. After a nearly self-taught formation between Catania and London, Microbo formed a deep collaboration with Bo130. Together, since settling in Milan in the 2000s, they have become prominent figures in Italian street art and promoters of extremely innovative projects in the urban universe.
We are in the heart of Chinatown, Milan. We meet Microbo and Bo in their home-studio which over the years has collected memories and objects from many parts of the world. Throughout all the previous episodes, this IN STUDIO is perhaps the only one where private life and work develop within a single space. An extremely interesting case that leads us to reflect on how different the perception of workspaces can be for an artist, in this case, a duo. For Microbo and Bo130, it has become a real life choice to unite these two worlds, and it is the basis of their serenity. The next step, however, is to start separating the spaces even though both define themselves as punk in the way they conceive the studio.
What are the mediums you prefer?
MICROBO&BO130: We often paint on found or scrap material, such as beams, wood panels, and old frames, and then layer upon layer, we build our works by mixing with acrylic colors, spray paints, stencils, paper, and posters. We almost never start from a blank canvas.
What objects or tools are essential in your studio?
Bo130: A Bic pen and a blank sheet of paper.
Microbo: Everything is indispensable and nothing is, we are both serial accumulators, on the street, you find a lot of valuable material that can be reused and transformed, so I would say that the “workshop” part is the most indispensable.
How does your creative process unfold?
BO: Often, we almost never sketch, but we have an idea or several sketches. As we build the image, we add or remove depending on the moment.
MICROBO: In many cases, we also go freestyle, which ends in the perfect finale. Alternatively, we start with an idea and a story that we want to tell. They are real invisible stories.
How does your creative process develop?
It is important to first distinguish the fact that we both have our distinct and separate universes, although especially in recent years, we often find ourselves working together as a couple.
Microbo: If my work mainly focuses on the microcosm, Bo130’s imagery can be decidedly compared to the macrocosm; together, we have found a way to unite the two imaginaries in a sort of yin & yang dance, which besides satisfying both of us, we notice is also appreciated by our friends and collectors.
Bo130: A clash of styles and techniques permeates my images and drawings. I draw from a wide range of influences such as music, movies, comics, and “news of the day”, blending a Lo-fi aesthetic and a punk and DIY approach. Once I have defined what I intend to paint, I begin to layer different sections of the painting. I often start from torn prints of my own drawings, to which I add color with very fluid brushstrokes, in an extremely spontaneous and unplanned way. Subsequently, I proceed by inserting more consistent acrylic colors and spray, other elements such as texts, abstract shapes, and other paper collages. I build the image until I reach a point where a little voice tells me: enough!
Microbo: I have two different methods but both are important to me. In the first one, I start with a clear idea or a “story” to tell, then, once all the elements to be included and the type of support for each one are established, I build my composition. In the second one, I start by dirtying the surface with random colors without thinking too much about it and gradually add different layers, letting the work develop spontaneously and only in the end adding details that will “reveal” the title. This is an approach that I call “magical” because often simple coincidences turn out to be synchronicities. In both methods, I cannot do without my sketchbooks which I use not only to draw but to write down notes and thoughts that don’t always take shape in the present but reveal themselves as keystones in the future.
How is your studio a meeting point?
According to those who have been here, the atmosphere that pervades our studio recalls the essence of a true “speakeasy”… and we like that! This place has grown together with us, preserving the memories of our travels and experiences accumulated over the years. We have also built or collected furniture over time, emptying the cellars of relatives and friends, a fusion of styles and eras that reflect our taste and personal aesthetic research. The works and objects are not only part of our personal archive but also the result of exchanges with other artists. We often find ourselves hosting friends and artists of various kinds because confrontation and sharing have always been important to us. Someone has dubbed our studio “The Yellow Submarine” beyond the fact that it is underground because we filled it with colored lights and over time it has also been a place for epic parties and nights. It is precisely this coexistence of different realities that perhaps makes our studio unique, vibrant, and attractive to our guests.
ph. courtesy Andrés Juan Suarez