The Meticulous Majesty of Peter Greco in Laguna
Typographic street artist and designer Peter Greco has spent his entire adult life learning the mastery of communication through language and lettering. His artwork celebrates the centuries old tradition of the art of calligraphy and the fascinating world of typography while paying homage to the many different cultures that have kept this tradition alive. He has shown all over the country, but based out of Los Angeles and teaching at Art Center College of Design, his artwork rarely makes it past the orange curtain. His latest show at the Laguna College of Art and Design Gallery on Ocean Avenue in Laguna Beach is an exploration into this interesting artist’s process, and his detail-oriented love of typography and the art of communication, entitled “Meticulous Calligraffiti.”
With a large-scale site-specific typographic mural, Greco offers Laguna residents and visitors an opportunity to see his process and his craft up close and personal, while also delving into a larger body of work on view, covering his lettering process, his calligraphy style and a variety of works from recent years.
Walking into the gallery, the first thing you see if the street art-sized mural that looks so freshly painted it seems like it might drip onto the cement floor at any given moment. The fusion of calligraphy and graffiti is a fascinating and unique fusion that further supports the diverse culture and interests of the LCAD student body; with elements of Greek and Islamic calligraphy that seem to meld into a Chaucer-like tone with an additional stylistic quality of Tolkien’s texts. It seems fitting that an art and design school gallery features work by an artist like Greco, who touches on so many traditions in design and art history through his contemporary typography-based street style concoctions.
In the realm of street art, his work references the cultural clash of the city he resides in and the mix and match of his contemporaries. What sets Greco’s work apart from that of well known type-based street artists Cryptik or Retna is the unique detail and flourish that he implores in his unique Calligraffiti work. While other type-based street artists and taggers have been adding the the history of type-based street art with their own style and flare, Greco has as well–but, his flare seems rooted more stylistically in the British and Scottish tradition of manuscripts and Old English lettering. Similar to the letterers of the Latino gangs that helped start the street art movement in Los Angeles, Greco’s use of Old English design details create a kind of impression that pushes and pulls the history of publications, declarations and Medieval documents, bringing a more serious tone to the bright and gestural typography and type-based designs of street art.
With the recent revival of hand painted lettering and signs, Greco’s work straddles both the world of traditional sign painting, the international history of calligraphy, California’s deep history with murals and the rebellious history of street art.
Greco went to school at the New York School of Visual Art and has been working as a designer and typographer since the late seventies. He now teaches expressive typography and calligraphy workshops at Art Center. With a heavy influence of New York and L.A.’s rich history of street art, Greco’s techniques of traditional lettering and design seem respectfully touching on those histories while also going beyond them with a contemporary edge. His immense career in graphic design can be easily seen as influence as well for his Calligraffiti.
Honoring the tradition of Toltec, which refers to men and women of knowledge–creators, inventors, scientists and warriors who sought to conserve the spiritual knowledge and practices of ancient cultures and traditions, Greco seeks truth and knowledge in all its forms. He has mastered the balance between commercial and fine art through respect, appropriation and alteration, creating his own unique blend of old and new. Although his name is less known than that of his contemporaries, his practice has been just as meticulous and for much longer. For over thirty years, Greco has blended ancient languages and traditions into large scale murals and designs, aiding the production of films, novels, companies and concepts with his art in the process.
It is clear that Greco lives and breathes his craft as he exudes intelligence and passion every time he speaks about it. Greco brings dilapidated walls and yards to life with history and design, and he is also working on a graphic novel inspired by a Mystic of the 1500s named Gonza Spalato and his harrowing journey to transformation and self awareness, as seen in the Collection of the Manuscript Leaves of Gonza Spalato.
Although much of his work speaks to a younger, more contemporary crowd, the heart of Greco’s work is steeped in history and respect, offering unique vantage point to approach historical texts, the art of lettering, and the ancient craftsmanship involved in design across the globe. “Meticulous Calligraffiti” is only up for a short time, but is definitely worth the trip.
“Meticulous Calligraffiti” is on view through March 29, 2017. LCAD Gallery, 374 Ocean Ave. Laguna Beach, CA 92651.