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Leo and Pipo met at the age of seven while attending a Catholic school in a small town east of Paris called Val-de-Marne. They had similar tastes and before long began collaborating, first with music. They combined early American blues with contemporary material to see what would happen. Their street art project parallels that same exploration. Does bringing the past and present together create a new meaning of its own? I had been picturing graffiti artists that felt a pull towards figure-based art statements. It was quite the opposite. They had never even done any type of graffiti.
These were artists that were drawn to the street, not for the destruction or to purge their angst but because that is where the real audience is. They are not the first to examine this type of juxtaposition, nor will they be the last, but it is undeniable that they have done something unique and markedly more positive, more inquisitive, than the vast majority of street art I’ve observed. They say the Leo and Pipo project has taken on a life of its own. Once they had come to an agreement on the precise course of the project, it became a matter simply of listening to it.
Their figures are currently haunting the streets in twelve separate countries, the work lasting anywhere from a few days to several years. They can put up more than four hundred figures in an outing, pasting the larger figures in about five minutes, moving quickly and discretely while the good people sleep. Regardless of this exportation into new territory they are quick to point out that this movement is intrinsically Parisian. They grew up in a suburb where people knew each other’s names. The social bonds were strong. Upon moving into Paris they found themselves completely anonymous, only known to one another. Leo and Pipo decided to set out and create an imaginary family, echoing a time when Paris was still just a big village.
When I asked them about the derivation of the names they use, they said that they were a kind of sobriquet they’ve been calling one another for quite a long time.
After looking up the word sobriquet (meaning nickname) I started picturing this pair of inspired scamps as children.
Two running boys wearing tiny blue and yellow Lone Ranger masks, maybe thin red-and-white striped shirts, two kings of their own shared world, calling each other Leo and Pipo in the dying afternoon light.