Lorenzo Marini is an Italian mixed media artist who defies conventional constraints by liberating letters from their conventional meanings and forms. As the visionary founder of the Type Art movement in Italy, Marini seamlessly transitioned from an illustrious career in graphic design and
advertising to an acclaimed artist, captivating audiences across the globe. Now rooted in
America, Marini's creative odyssey is a bold exploration of text, aiming to forge an innovative
alphabet that reimagines symbols through a contemporary lens. “The real traveler is not the one
who discovers new places, but who sees old places with new eyes”.
In our conversation with Marini, we embark on a journey through his artistic evolution, spanning
both his formative years in Italy and his current artistic endeavors on American soil. Transitioning from his Italian origins to his flourishing presence in the United States, our conversation delves into the intriguing nuances of cultural perspectives on art consumption. Throughout the last decade, Marini's stature in the art world has grown, driven by his unyielding commitment to exploring type text and expanding his artistic horizons. He remains at the forefront of the type art movement, exploring its dimensions in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional spaces.
Read on to learn more in an exclusive interview with Lorenzo Marini.
Worldtype, 2023 - Plexiglass, 60x70x60
Do you have any projects or shows coming up?
Yes, I will be attending Miami Art Basel 2023 from December 8th - 10th with the Alessandro Berni Gallery. And before this, I have a solo show in Paris at Galerie Saltiel on November 30th.
Are you showing previous works or are you making something new for these shows?
Every time I have an exhibition I make something new out of respect for the art and the art lover. I want to be presenting something fresh and current that makes every exhibition experience different. It is like with food, you want something that is fresh and not something that is old and stale.
Chromatique, 2023 - Mixed Media on Canvas, 80x80cm
In terms of Art Basel Miami, do you have a theme or something in mind for what you will be showcasing there?
I'm going to show something like a vortex or black hole using typography and I'm going to change how the letters are perceived. When we typically see works and the letters that make up words, it is always on a flat plane that reads from one direction to another. I'm challenging this approach by making the type text bidimensional to create a black hole/vortex-like universe out of the letters. I will be introducing three or four different kinds of universes of letters at Miami.
Why do you work with letters and typography?
I'm seeking to really show this in my vortex works at Miami, but once you lose the meaning of the senses, you have no more meaning and words become empty. The majority of people don't keep what they promise because words don't hold as much value anymore these days. We live in a visual time period where images are more important than words. Words have lost their meaning and so I prefer to get closer to text and find new interpretations of individual letters.
Alphatype, 2023 - Mixed Media on Canvas, 110x110cm
When did you first start experimenting with type and letters?
I started 10 years ago. I've been very lucky because I have worked as an art director and graphic designer who made lots of logotypes and symbols. There is a lot of commonality between my work then and my research with letters now. When you start to write something out, you use letters that are just simple symbols. The letter A is like a triangle with no bottom and a line through the center, the letter B is like the number eight with a flat left side, so we give meaning to these letters by connecting it with a drawing. You remember as a child you were probably taught that A is for apple and you were shown a visual of an apple when learning the letter. For B you help make the connection by pairing it with the image of a banana, and so on. We have symbols on one side of the spectrum and illustrations on the other side, and there seems to be this empty space between these universes. My work very much is an exploration within this middle ground between text and illustration. I try to translate simple symbols into something that is more interesting with more meaning.
Verticaltype, 2023 - Ceramic Iris, 150x100cm
You have mentioned a difference in approach and interpretation of art between America and Europe. Can you speak more to this?
The difference I see lies between a collective vs an individual. Like my text and symbols, which have to be strong individually, I see the same in the people and art of Italy. In Italy, there is more of a focus on the individual and celebrating uniqueness. Growing up there, I now try to celebrate the uniqueness of letters, not in the collective group of letters that makes up words. Being that Italy has been around for much longer than America, we have a lot more traditions that we like to hold onto. While holding onto this tradition, we have to find things that make us unique and stand out as an individual. America on the other hand I think tends to look towards the collective future more. America also is focused on vibrant contemporary artists, whereas not so much in Europe where there is more focus on traditional.
I also see a difference in the value placed on art between Europe and America. There is a much more aesthetic focus when it comes to art in America. If I ask why someone likes a piece of mine here the answer is usually because it looks good in my home, it matches the aesthetic, and I like the colors. Especially in California, I hardly ever hear questions like why did you choose to use this one color here and what motivated these brushstrokes here? I get more of these ‘why’ questions in Europe, as the general public appears more interested in the motivation, concept, and purpose behind my art, rather than the overall aesthetic.
The reason I think people buy art is because it gives you a kind of higher feeling that connects you to your spirit. It is something that relaxes, that brings happiness, similar to music. Art is the best way to elevate your state of mind. We have to remember that we are a spirit living in a body, we are not just a body, and this is why we need something more, and this something is what art provides for us. So while we have different approaches to art between Europe and America, it all comes down to us being human and connecting with works that elevate our spirit.
Lorenzo Marini in the US Studio in North Hollywood
What draws you to American culture?
You are so open to the future. Being that typography is closely tied to graphic design, I am working to evolve my works and challenge the previous interpretations. This focus on evolving and looking towards the future is why I enjoy being in America. I very much admire the work of Leo Castelli who was one of the biggest galleries ever in New York during the 60s and 70s, because he never told his artists what they should do with their works. He did always recommend that they continue to make something new. To continue to push the boundaries and evolve works, and be open to new things, is something I relate to myself as well as the culture of America. My work is appreciated by many here in America as well which I am very grateful for.
Where Unspoken Words End, 2023 - Mixed Media on Canvas, 80x80cm
Were you trained in the traditional arts growing up?
Yes, I was drawing a lot when I was growing up. My father was a merchant and my mother was something of a princess, so I had two very opposite types of minds who raised me. One was very focused on making money and the other was focused on beautiful things, but there wasn't any pressure or encouragement to pursue the arts in my home. I eventually came to study architecture in school because I really enjoyed the composition of it all. Even cities are a kind of composition, and being that I was very good at drawing I found myself enjoying the architecture. I knew that eventually I wanted to do something like art and graphic design, but at the time architecture was something that was in between these two things. I loved that there was both a humanistic and scientific side to the work.
When I eventually went to art school I had the opportunity to work with abstract painter Emilio Vedova, who was a friend of Pollock and you can tell by his works that he was very much inspired by Pollock. I looked up to Vedova, and I was also very influenced by Rembrandt who is my favorite artist. He really cares about the material, the drama, the black and white lightning, everything he portrayed was so dramatic and I love him so much.
How do you think you have evolved as an artist when you first started compared to now?
I painted by myself for over 20 years without hardly ever showing anyone. Working in commercial advertising and doing graphic design during the day, I would then spend my nights opening up my universe and painting. It was just a way for me to unwind and express myself at night, but I was never worried about showcasing my paintings. Eventually, a merchant and collector wanted to see my works and asked me why I wasn't showing my paintings to the world, but I felt I didn't need to because I was well-established and busy with my main job. One man whose name was Arigani one day was telling me how he liked my white text compositions a lot but he wanted me to create a work using the letter A for his name. From that moment, I felt a spark of light and realized that customers know what they want. It was just up to me to open my antenna and start experimenting more with letters which I began doing 10 years ago. Now I have come to fully embrace painting, experimenting with letters, and showing my works.
Lorenzo Marini in the US Studio in North Hollywood
What is your process like? Is there any part of the process that is difficult?
I don't consider any part of the process difficult. I don't tend to sketch a lot or try drawing prototypes with pen and paper. I like to use my mind and imagination to see how my work will take shape. I know plenty of artists who start with a work on paper and evolve it many times until it comes to form, but not me. I prefer to visualize everything in my mind and let the ideas come to me. We are just a radio with an antenna, pulling from the billions and billions of songs in the universe. It is just a matter of turning on that transmitter to signal those ideas. Art and artists are simply creating interpretations of the signals of the universe, nothing is truly ours.
What is your goal with your art?
Have fun and make people happy. That's it. I am simply a delivery man, sharing the ideas of the universe with the people.
Where do you see yourself evolving from here as an artist in the next 10 years?
I think I need to put work into the new alphabet without meaning. I want to work towards something more profound in my work. For now, I want to continue creating new shapes from old objects. The real traveler is not the one who discovers new places, but who sees old places with new eyes.
Alphatype, 2022 - Mixed Media on Canvas, 150x150cm
You can learn more about Lorenzo Marini about his work via these links: