Twenty-five year old Chicago based artist lefty OUT there (aka Franco Campanella) has been steadily making a name for himself over the past decade. What started as a teenager interested in street art and a penchant for wheat paste developed quickly into some of the most beautiful, intricate patterns across walls all over Chicago. Now you can find Lefty’s art in galleries, fashion, on furniture, and graphic design projects.
We caught up with the Gold Coast resident to discuss his collaboration with the newly branded Ambassador Chicago Hotel, how he sees technology influencing the art world, and what’s up next for this “squiggle” making, passionate southpaw, who wants to “cover everything.”
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. My family moved almost every two years, but I spent the most time in Arlington Heights.
Growing up only 30 minutes from the city was amazing. My family and I would always take advantage of the museums and other fun activities that were going on. This was sort of my first glimpse at a lot of art/design which really helped me understand what was possible and sparked ideas.
What are you working on for Ambassador Chicago?
For Ambassador Chicago, I had the privilege of releasing an edition of 200 12×12 signed screen prints. To go with the brand’s identity, we used metallic gold ink on matte black paper. Contrasting finishes is a common theme in my work; I always enjoy how things like light and vantage point can affect how a piece of art appears.
“Cover everything” is the goal, but is there a specific place or thing you’d love to get the chance to cover?
I think the space would have to be created. I am very inspired by interior design and furniture so I would love to fully engulf spaces both commercial and residential. One day, I would love to create a venue where literally everything from the walls to the stemware is squiggled out. I know at first that this may seem abrasive but it doesn’t have to be. Besides the obvious all black and white space, I would love to pull back and focus on achieving subtle aesthetics.
There is a lot of crossover in your work: photography, design, textile, fashion, furniture, now VR. Where do you see technology taking your art?
For the first few years my art was entirely created without technology. But as time passed and I realized the possibilities of where it could really take my art, I began incorporating it more and more into the workflow. At this point, tech is only going to enhance the experience of viewing art. I recently did a commission where the exterior was entirely engraved and cut by lasers. The interior houses a TV, mini-computer, three LED light boxes that are all controlled by wifi. That’s a long way from drawing on free stickers that I got from the post office with a sharpie.
VR is an amazing tool. I see it as the main platform for digital creation in the future. At points it feels like I’m inside a program like Cinema 4D instead of just viewing it from a 2D screen. At this point the creation games available in VR are often compared to Microsoft Paint but I imagine once it has been around for a few years, the opportunities will be endless.
Do you see a connection between how tech allows you to connect to the masses and your early days as a street artist?
Not really, users of technology can somewhat control what they are exposed to, whereas street art is invasive. If anything, street art is like a pop-up ad and that’s what I love about it. Artists can get clever with their placement and intentionally reach their audience whether or not the message is welcomed or not. One of my favorite uses of street art still to this day is a project JR did on the Israel/Palestine wall. He went to both countries and took photos of people that had the same occupation and posted them next to each other on the wall. This was such a powerful beautiful message and I really appreciate that honesty and passion.
What is “Left Alive”?
Left Alive is the name of a collaboration show that took place during June in LA with friend/photographer Vika Petlakh. We displayed 12 new physical pieces that ranged from framed photo prints to new media wall sculptures. The show was a great success with close to 1,000 attendees and a nearly sold out collection all in one day. Left Alive is very much still alive. We are already planning other events in LA, New York and Miami this year.
Talk a little about the Chicago art scene? It’s a hard-working, no bullshit kind of town, is the same true in the art community?
Chicago is very talented but under-recognized. I am really trying to break that mold by traveling and representing for my city because I think that is the only way for the rest of the world to realize what potential our city really has.
What’s next for Lefty?
– Completing a 12 city visual tour with Effen Vodka
– LED installation for Nobu Chicago
– 5,000 sq ft mural in Wynwood Miami
– A glass and stainless steel sculpture in Malibu
– Some very exciting commissioned fine art pieces
– The Sub Chroma Pop Up in Chicago
– Art Basel Miami
- Feature Photo by Cory Vanderploeg
- Video by Steven Sampang