Pepe started when he was 17. But back then, his only aim was to customize his motorbike and his helmet. In order to do things “properly”, he decided to join an aerography course. Aerography is a surrealist method in which a stencil used in spray-painting is replaced by a three-dimensional object. The effect is blended and photorealistic and it’s not that contemporary, considering that aerography techniques go all the way to the Victorian era tiles of the XIX century to the doors of a vehicle and Man Ray, an American visual artist who died in 1976.
Pepe Perretta starts to come to grips with it and, puts it into practice when he starts to paint the shutters of local butchers and bakeries. His dad doesn’t really agree with what his son is doing. He’s a grocer, hence he regards every form of art as a loss of time. Perretta Sr, who supports River Plate, can only foresee a bleak future for Pepe, who in turn is a Nueva Chicago fan. But his first real assignment comes in the shape of a 15-year old girl who supports Boca Juniors.
When girls, and girls only, turn 15 (and not 18) in Argentina, families have a big celebration. They ask Pepe to depict a flag with her face on it. That’s how he gets in touch with La Doce, the infamous Boca Barra Brava.
The leaders soon notice his skills. Pepe knows what they need. At the football, big flags serve to wrap up one people in what he regards as a holy mantle. It sews together thousands of souls. Pepe’s purpose is to translate one people’s feelings into images. And at the beginning, it’s not easy for him to understand and work with people who don’t support his team. Pepe still feels some rivalry deep down his heart. But he soon realizes that the only thing that changes from one terrace to the other are the colours; the passion is always the same.
But he can’t stop there. Pepe is just at the beginning of a long journey that will take him to Colombia, United States and Europe. After his first taste with Boca Juniors, he also manages to get in touch with their fierce rivals, River Plate’s Borrachos del Tablon. In exchange for his work, he gets rewarded with two tickets for El Superclasico at the Monumental. Pepe asks his dad to join him but he doesn’t reveal anything. And when River supporters unfurl the maxi flag, Perretta Sr looks in amazement and asks: «Pepe, have you made that?» To which Pepe cannot but reply: «Sì, tano, es un regalo para vos», it’s a present for you. For the first time, Pepe sees tears in his father’s eyes. He started believing that art, sometimes, can pay you back after all.
- So, Pepe where have you been in Italy?
- “Well, I have been around. I spoke with Torino ultras, but also those from the Curva B in Naples. In Florence I painted a flag for the ‘1926’ ultra group and there is another one in progress for Florentine football next summer. I spoke to Lazio ultras, and then I went to Francavilla, the small town in Abruzzo from where my father comes from – we’ll paint a record flag there. Then I have managed to get in touch with people at Inter and Atlético Madrid, in Spain. Last but not least I also managed to meet Pope Francis and gave him a 20x20 flag of himself”.
- How long does it take in order to realize a project normally? And what funds do you need?
- “The duration of the whole process just varies according to the size of the flag or the choreography itself. Normally, in order to do things properly, it takes two or three months. This time I came by myself, but next time I will return to Europe with other six or seven people. Normally I take care of logistics and the project itself, and all this amounts to circa 70% of the whole job. Wherever I go, people kidnap me for several days [laughs]. Fans provide all the rest I need (XXX, paint, etc). I don’t like to talk prices because, at least in Argentina, in every club there are those at the top who are always ready to boost them in order to make their interests”.
- What a job! I guess there’s no competitors?
- “Not at all. I myself formed some of my competitors. People who used to work for me, are now working by themselves and make stuff for several Argentinean ultra groups. But let’s say that I have a very distinctive style. So far, I have managed to paint 64 big flags and I hope there will be many more in the future”.
- What are your best and most difficult tifos/choreographies?
- “The most beautiful is without a doubt the one I painted for Argentina national team – it’s 25 metres long and Pope Francis, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi are all depicted there. For me that was a real reason of pride. The most difficult so far I’d say the Independiente “cancha”, stadium. We had to depict all the details of their ground. But also the massive long banner we made for Racing Club, which was 30x310, made us sweat to be honest!”