[Zeta/ Acme. Barcelona, 1995]
Ten years later since his last exhibition in the Barcelona Montana Gallery, it’s been a pleasure having Pablo Herrero, or “Mr. Zeta”, with us again. His new series of works titled “Mug-Shots” will be on public view until January 31.
We’d like to take this opportunity to interview him and to get to know more about the life and work of, without a doubt, one of the most popular multi-disciplinary artists from the origins of Spanish graffiti. He has become an example for his professional development as an illustrator, painter, musician, and lover of the arts in general.
Tell us briefly about your relationship with Barcelona, starting from the first time you were here, and about your relationship to the local graffiti scene and how it’s felt coming back now with this exhibition under your arm.
I think my first visit was in 89-90 and from that time up until now I’ve lived with many of those who’ve been living history from the Barcelona Graffiti scene: Moockie – Musa – Kapi -Sendys – Inupie – Dios – Fase – Cisco – DFR – Mafia-2- Sutil – CFC – Cash – Taran – Heiz – Dive -Shan – Biz – Heiz – Puke – Crash – Done – Sunsak – All – Rostro – Poseydon – Flash – Zent – Hosh – Sawe… A lot of those writers have fully left an impression on an era in Barcelona Graff. I was involved in or took part in the origins and creation of the Game Over Mag & Shop – Montana – Acme Crew – Mtn Technicians – Bcn Addictos… Since it was one of the most active cities on the Spanish scene, I was always keeping track and maintaining contact with many of the active writers, artists, and musicians from the movement.
[Moockie, Chop, Musa, Zeta/ Acme. Barcelona, 1995]
In those early days it was a time of expansion and growth in graff, so we maintained constant contact through letters or telephone, we made zines in black and white, and we exchanged photos of our pieces, our contacts, our music, etc… Since then I’ve always been visiting the city frequently and living what was happening in Barcelona with its writers in each of the three decades.
[Chop, Zeta/ Acme. Bunker Store. Barcelona, 1995]
Since then the city, the graff scene, and the writers have changed a lot, and they have gone through many different phases, each one of them having its pros and cons. All of this leads to an evolution or change thanks to which different results and more mature points of view are obtained.
In my case I think it also translates into my work… I’m an artist constantly seeking out change and renewal.
“My work is what defines me in any given moment in my life.”
I’m not the type of person to cling to a glorious past or to yearn things from the past that will never come back. I’m always looking forward… If I do look back at the past it’s like a test to gain momentum and to keep moving forward… in life, art, music, influences… (always digging).
[Zeta, Chop, Moockie, Poseydon. Barcelona, 1997]
My last expo in the Montana Gallery was in 2004 just after Os Gemeos, with Moockie and the “Quasar Project”, and 10 years later I felt comfortable and gratified with the positive response I’ve received about my current artistic moment. I personally feel I’ve received very good criticism on my work. I’ve always felt very comfortable. “Barcelona” is my second home…
Having been doing graffiti for more than 30 years, your one of those national references; living history from our scene. What things remain the same and what things change over time? Is it difficult to coexist between the b-boy and the artist?
Well the truth is that I’ve mutated a lot in 30 years, always in the search for creative, artistic, and personal satisfaction, and each moment being motivated depending on my life circumstances. I still haven’t lost that passion and necessity in me to keep searching since I was a three year old boy. I began using paint and started drawing and I haven’t stopped since.
My way of conceiving a work has changed in that before, I used to cling to a more unorthodox, classic style, true to the standards of graffiti aesthetic, and now I don’t have any barriers or prejudices when conceiving a work, mural, canvas, or illustration etc…
“Anything that moves me, may it be for good or bad, is an influence to me.”
[Zeta. Mexico, 2014]
In the past it was difficult to coexist between being a B-boy and an artist. Perhaps it was a lack of maturity that causes you to judge whether things are politically correct or not while developing your art, because in the past in graff and in Hip-Hop, there were more closed parameters.
“I think that the current graff scene has less prejudices towards other artistic visions.”
[Zeta, Chop, Moockie, Suso33. Zaragoza, 1995]
In you exhibitions in the last six years you’ve concentrated your work on presenting different characters, while still maintaining some sort of graffiti reference. In this one specifically, you’ve focused exclusively on the portrait. Tell us what brought you to “Mug-Shots” and what you wanted to convey with them.
Within graffiti from the start I became popular thanks to the fact that I specialized in characters, although in some phases I developed more on my typographic styles, lettering, etc…
I also constantly develop classic traditional painting exercises, that were already a part of my life before I knew what graffiti was; since I was 6 or 7 years old I was going to art and painting schools.
[Zeta, Moockie, “Evolution”. Barcelona, 1996]
This exhibition or stage I’m in right now has more to do with that pre-graffiti stage. I began doing these sketches of “lateral portraits” and anatomical studies years ago on the metro, bus, etc… (I get around on public transport) and I’ve got a lot of dead time that I take advantage of by drawing. I thought it was interesting to do portraits of people that weren’t posing for me.
Coincidentally when I was sweeping the internet, (since I like to stay up to date and keep track of what’s happening on cyber space), I found a photographic archive of police records from the 20’s-40’s and the harsh physiognomy and aesthetic of the photos impacted me. This archive fit in with all the notes I’d been taking over the years and they were a catalyst in finding a common thread for this exhibition…
Generally when I take notes, I don’t do portraits, I just sketch features. I’m not interested in beauty, just character, and these canvas’ are “Exquisite Corpses” of all of those notes I took on human anatomy and physiognomy.
[Zeta, “Mug-Shots”. 2014]
The use of color is fundamental in your works. Can you explain your use of color and other relevant aspects of your creative process in relation to this exhibition?
My current work is an “Exercise in anatomy and colorimetry”. I study color ranges a lot, the looseness of the stroke, physiognomy, the equilibrium of elements in the composition… It was always a challenge for me to be able to combine color in order to convey feelings…
I’ve done it with my graffiti pieces and art since I was little… Not just art, but canvas’ or murals by other artists that I like influence me while selecting color ranges for my works.
In a circumstantial way, I started working with reused materials such as: old upholstery fabrics, curtains, tablecloths, rice bags, coffee, wheat, wood, doors and windows from the garbage, etc…
I don’t like to start a blank canvas. I get more joy intervening a surface that has already had a life of its own and it’s the same when I paint in the street. That very surface suggests and conditions new resources, shapes, colours, etc, that on a blank canvas might not have occurred.
Also, photographic environments, cinema, cities that I visit and their people… a movie, a sunset, a cloudy day, autumn, minerals, birds, butterflies…. anything that passes me by serves my color palette.
Another interesting facet while doing I+D is to try to create through the vision of other artists that move you. That way you come up with new resources and points of view that are different from your own that can bring something new to your “ME” as an artist (like when a dj does a remix). In the end this exercise leaves sediment in your subconscious creative mind and it wakes you up and makes you evolve.
All artists are the result of other artists that have influenced them.
[Zeta. Querétaro, Mexico, 2014]