Curated by Giuseppe Pizzuto

Critical essay by Samantha Longhi

Sten (Rome, 1982) and Lex (Taranto, 1982) are among the most internationally recognized Italian street artists today. Included in countless publications, they participated in The Cans Festival in London in 2008, upon invitation by Banksy, and The Nuart Festival in Norway, one of most important street art events in the world. Their works have been shown in prestigious national and international institutions, included in precious private collections and have been held in institutions like the MADRE Museum in Naples, and permanently at the MACRO in Rome.

Sten Lex are pioneers in stencil technique in Italy. They got their start in 2001 on the streets of Rome, and since then their work with stencils has been in constant evolution. They introduced innovations such as “Hole School”, which applied mezzotint technique to stencils and changed the perceived image from abstraction to figuration according to the distance of the observer. In 2010, Sten Lex began to utilize “Stencil Poster”, a technique invented by them: the artists paste a poster to the surface, cut out a part of the figure as with a stencil and then paint over the “matrix”, ultimately ripping off the paper to reveal the final image. For their exterior installations, the paper is removed organically by natural factors: the piece, therefore, is transformed by the passing of time, and it is revealed according to atmospheric rhythms.

The show Matrici Distrutte (Destroyed Matrices) investigated the technique and artistic process of Sten Lex. For the artists, in fact, technique and process are of equal importance in the finished work, and are an essential part of it. A metaphor for life, in which the journey and the destination have the same importance. As the very title reveals, the matrices of the stencil are destroyed during the creative process. In their stencil posters, the scraps left hanging on the surface are a part of the destroyed matrix and communicate an aesthetic sense of transformation, of becoming. Using the destructive process as a part of the work, the artists surpass the limits imposed by stencils, a technique that, in its own right, limits the sign and sets boundaries. In a paradoxical way, the artists come to cancel the defining characteristic of the stencil itself: its reproducibility. Once the matrix is destroyed, in fact, the work becomes unique and can no longer be recreated. Life becomes unique and is no longer reproducible.

The artist duo presented works created specifically for their show at Wunderkammern. They included wood pieces, that either evoked those realized in the public space or that were the foundation of new ideas for future works, and limited edition works on paper. Before the opening, the artists produced several mural interventions in Rome. The critical essay for the show was written by Samantha Longhi (Graffiti Art magazine).

Matrici Distrutte was part of Wunderkammern’s new artistic project Limitless, inaugurated with the Spanish artist Sam3 and the French artist L’Atlas. The project also brought to the gallery the artists Alexey Luka (Russia) and Jacopo Ceccarelli a.k.a. 2501 (Italy). Limitless explored the concept of limit in its possible shapes and manifestations, designating Art as the preferred means of overcoming barriers that we are subjected to on a daily basis, and of reflecting on limitless reality.