Leo et Pipo

For the fourth edition of Cheap, the French duo Leo & Pipo created a piece in Piazza Azzarita, working on the two buildings across from the Paladozza that serve as an entrance to the underground parking garage. These two structures flank the building that street artist Levalet, also from France, worked on during the last edition of the festival.

Leo & Pipo are both originally from the Val-de-Marne and have known each other since they were children. Their longstanding creative bond found expression in multiple different spheres before settling on street art, all the while displaying an abiding interest in the practice of collage. Their first “traditional” collages, made by reassembling bits cut from old magazines, were followed by an incursion into the terrain of musical composition in which they sampled sounds from the twenties, forties and fifties; at the same time, the duo has been working with video using found footage techniques.

On moving to Paris, Leo & Pipo were struck by the atmosphere of anonymity, isolation and sterility they saw reigning over human relations in the country’s capital and begin to feel the need to intervene in the city’s urban landscape. Driven by a desire to re-inject some poetry and human warmth into Parisian streets, they once again dipped into a historical period in which, according to the two artists, “Paris was still a great country.”

To embark on this veritable journey through time, their launching pad was family photos, mainly from the twenties and portraying ordinary people. They browsed flea markets to find their materials but also drew on the personal archives of friends and relatives. Cropped, enlarged and printed on paper, these anonymous figures are hung on walls with a paste-up technique, blending effortlessly and seamlessly into the urban landscape. At the same time, however, these life-sized portraits startle passersby, functioning as a “Madeleine” that elicits a collective historical memory with the power to transcend the set of personal memories inherent in each individual portrait.

Titled Petit rat de l’Opéra, the project created for the Cheap Festival extends across two buildings, repeating the image of a young female ballet dancer: this is the portrait of one of the artists’ friends’ mothers, and it reappears in a variety of poses all along the edge of the two buildings.