Andrea “FACE” Facelli is a known provocateur: drawing upon his origins and inspirations in the Aerosol Art scene, the Italian artist has made a name for himself by taking the sacred (figures of the Crucifixion, the Virgin Mary, and the like) and turning them profane, be it by hammering nails through them, dipping them in anthracite or sealing them in layers of colorful, sealing wax.
FACE has also turned his love for vintage books and magazines into a medium, repurposing old pulp materials for collages and putting a blasphemous spin on them — for his latest exhibition, “Tales of Snakes and Holy Water,” the artist utilized old porno, gold leaf and “vagina scent.” But the artist is perhaps best known for his creative work alongside industry titans like Nike and outsider upstarts VLONE, as well as legendary retailer Slam Jam.
We spoke to FACE about his origins in the Italian street and skatewear scenes, why he uses the materials he does, and how 99% of his work is “pure darkness.”
What’s the story behind your two brands, Supernova and Letal Entertainment?
Supernova and Letal Entertainment were two street brands—probably the first in Italy—and they started in 1999. I started that with my ex-partner; she was designing the female part (Supernova) and I was taking care of the graphic design and fabric research and selling to shop. The female garments were made with futuristic designs and fabrics from the most important designers: Jean-Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, Armani, Moschino, whatever. Really, really good fabrics. Different silks, cooked wool, jersey. We had the opportunity to work with these brands because we had a stockist who could buy the fabric by weight and sell it by the yard. We had permission to use the logos of our brands. That’s how people fell in love with these brands.
Letal was more about all-over printing and sarcastic, sinister graphics taken from vintage magazines or antique books. I got a lot of inspiration from back brands like FUCT, Blind, Freshjive, Anarchic Adjustment, Nom de Guerre and Rusell.
In Italy, stores and owners didn’t really understand the brand, which made it difficult to work with them. But we had a good chance to work with Penelope at Boysloft—a really nice store in Brescia—so we had a very special collection for them. After getting in contact with stores in Paris like Colette, Apartment in Berlin, Union in LA, Union New York, Rusell, Nom de Guerre, some other stores in Japan.
In my life, I always had cycles of working and jobs. For thirteen years, I was a chef working in Michelin star restaurants with the best chefs and I tried to achieve the top of this particular job. So after six years of design work, I stopped.
You’ve said that your great-grandfather is a tremendous inspiration for you. Google didn’t give us any results, so we were wondering what sort of art did he make and how did it influence you in turn?
It’s really funny that you googled my great-grandfather because he was born in 1899. He was a wood-worker. He built a mill by himself and his idea was that he wanted to dig it into a river next to a bigger river. That way, the water would spin the wheels and cause a chain reaction that would allow him to cut trees or other big things. So he was making horse-coaches, wine-barrels and any type of furniture for people.
He was an important person in my family because my grandma was raped when she was fourteen, unfortunately, and the hustler who did that to her was her fiancé—times were different back then, very much unlike now. Anyway, the hustler escaped. My father never saw his face. I don’t even know his name. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather in his laboratory working on carpentry so that’s why I have very good hands and I can do a lot of construction work, wood-working, anything that involves the hands.
Many of your works utilize materials like anthracite and wax—what draws you to these materials?
The anthracite on the black Virgin looked like dried lava to me after putting the statue in the volcano. These scenes of humans touching the Madonna with their sins, which was pure gold before, still stay, even after two thousand years. As you can see, only a few holy places still remain: the eyes, the halo, the rosary. All these parts are important to show the Madonna still living and powerful, even if it’s covered by this material and dirtied by those sins. The sealing wax that I’m using in different colors for different artworks always create unique textures, from the details to the way it boils and melts before making. The smell is really nice, too. There’s also this strange gory effect—like blood melting.
What do you collect?
If you’re a collector, you have to go to flea markets or do research in old stores, exchanging things with other people. It’s too easy to be a collector on eBay or the Internet. All that does is mean that If I am very rich, I could be the best collector in the world, but it doesn’t work like that to me. All the things I own, they have a story to tell: where I found it, who sold it to me, where they come from, different places I’m traveling (like Japan, the United States, Europe).
The items that I like to collect are books. Because, to me, they give a lot of information, inspiration and they’re nice objects. I also collect records, ones with nice covers and different pictures or artworks or designs, but they also play. And if you buy nice records, you have unique objects. Mostly the stuff I own and collect comes from flea markets. I’ve been going since the late 90′s. I’d go early in the morning to buy records, old video games, skulls, books, porno magazines.
Skateboarding is clearly a tremendous influence on your pieces; what were your favorite skate videos and companies growing up?
When I first starting skateboarding, I thought the best brands were Powell Peralta, Santa Cruz, and Zorlac, Skullskate. Then, after a while, Santa Monica Airlines by Steve Rocco, Blind, World Industries and all these brands that started to make fun of classic skate brands—people were shocked by the graphics. All the elements: items, garments, stickers, whatever. I was impressed by those brands and by watching their videos, like H-Street or Bones Brigade, Video Days. Those were my favorite blind video days.
Do you still skate?
I do not skate anymore. I can push around, but it’s not skating.
How does working with upstart brands like VLONE differ from huge corporations like Nike?
When I used to work for Nike for Wold Champion Soccer, I designed football jerseys that were hand-embroidered by a laboratory who does haute couture for top designers. We all know each other in Milano and Mike Fraser, at the time he was working at FootPatrol, and I met him through Michael Copperman. In those days, it was cool. Almost the same working with upstart brands like VLONE, because it was more of a family and friends business than a huge company.
Your work is quite dark—would you describe yourself as a dark person?
99% of my artworks are pure darkness. Books I read, life, health problems, motorbike accident, and other different experiences. I am a dark person, but not negative. Not negative at all. I always have a solution for every problem, because if there is a problem there is also a solution. Otherwise, the problem does not exist in the first place. I try always to see the right parts. Life is about opinions: if you want to see things with a bad opinion, you will always see the wrong part of life; if you’re positive, you will see the good parts of life.
What other sorts of projects can we expect from you moving forward?
I’m looking forward to put together my e-commerce, where I will be selling oddities, accessories and some printing of my designs, some T-shirts that I’ll be doing in very small quantities, vintage books, and other stuff that I found in the markets. I’ve got some new designs coming out with different brands, but I can’t mention names or anything—I don’t wanna ruin the surprise. Peace.
I’m very thankful to my mom because after lot of troubles with me and her ex-husband, she never believed in my potential but this was the key to be patient for command and discipline.