Ever been in a situation where another person said something that left you wondering why they said it all? Or have you ever thought something but your unwillingness to be pegged as the precarious one led you not to say it out loud? Well take heed of Boston artist, Pat Falco, whose wittily painted characters and quippy one-liners depict us in all our eclectic and imperfect wonder without passing judgment, but rather causing a cryptic cackle of recognition so that we can laugh at each other and ourselves.
Falco has an impeccable way of capturing what he sees in his Boston-environment and transfers his musing into tongue-and-cheek signs that are hand painted and left all over the city for Bostonians to encounter. He’s a sophisticated comedian who knows how to pull off common scenes with an insider wink, while laughably construing topics about local gentrification and politics. Fortunately, Falco does have frequent opportunities to give his characters and pieces safe refuge in gallery spaces; he’s got an upcoming exhibit at the Boston Arts Festival (August 30-31 at Christopher Columbus Park in the North End). At the end of the day Falco’s work brings us all down to the same level, bringing to the forefront our imperfections and those social misconceptions that we all internalize and project back onto society. We got the chance to visit Mr. Falco in his South End studio where we talked typography influences and just how bad the Boston arts scene really is.
Yeah, I went to MassArt for film but didn’t like it so I tried illustration and I was bad at it and then I graduated and now I’m here. I realized illustration is very design-centric, which I hated because it’s just so commercial. So I kind of rejected it and got into more artistic illustration. I started an alternative gallery space in Waltham called the Lincoln Arts Project and that kind of helped me enter this network of artists and creative people. For the three years it’s been open, I have been able to meet a lot of artists and cool people.
Well I feel like the gallery scene in Boston is either alternative, or, not that welcoming, so I just started getting in to doing my own thing in public. Just putting stuff outside without it really being a big thing. Usually they’re just calling attention to things that I think are funny around the city, but kind of at the same time act as ways of being like, “Why isn’t anyone else noticing this?” Or if they are, why isn’t anyone saying anything?
My characters are kind of a culmination of the people I see or encounter around. I think a lot of my pieces play largely into topics that are specific to this generation in the city. A lot of my signs are reactions or slightly comedic commentary to ongoing gentrification and politics in the city.
Usually I try and do them anonymously but the last one was the ‘Entering South Boston’ sign. I put a sign up underneath it that said, ‘Now with no more poor people.” That one created some interesting conversations, which was cool. It was people actually putting thought into what the sign said. It wasn’t people just saying ‘Oh this sign is stupid,’ it was more a conversation about gentrification. Both sides were probably wrong, but it started a dialogue that maybe wouldn’t have been there otherwise.
I’m actually in the process of building this fake museum called, “The Boston Contemporary Museum,” which is basically just going to be an 8×8 foot cube that has lots of Boston artists exhibited in it – kind of making fun of museums and art, but at the same time standing as art and a museum itself.
How did you come up with the idea?
Well it’s for the Boston Arts Festival and they wanted me to make signs or something to contribute, and I came back with this museum idea, mostly as a way of getting a bunch of art friends and people involved.
Yeah, I like type, I took a lot of type classes in school, and I mostly just find writing things out easier. I’m not very good at talking regularly so I found it easier to communicate with words in print and paint. I like a lot of artists that are either sign painters or are influenced by text. Like old signage. Let’s say you walk past a gas station, you realize the gas station owner painted that sign. That’s awesome. Books, and stupid jokes influence are always big ones too. I like art also. I’m influenced by art.
There’s definitely twisted humor in all of your pieces. Are they just a culmination of ideas your right down randomly throughout the day?
Yeah, I don’t really have a sketchbook, as much as just this little notebook that I write everything down in, really roughly.
Like anything in Boston I think it’s very self-deprecating. It has like an inferiority complex, but I think it’s fine. I mean New York is three hours away so it’s not New York, which is like the capital of the world for art. So it’s always going to lose that comparison. There’s a new article every week about how the Boston art scene sucks, but I don’t think it’s that bad. I think it’s hard to stay in the city a while and feel like you want to keep staying here, but maybe it’s getting better.
All my friends here influence me the most. I hang out with people in their studios or go to the same shows, and we all support each other. Even if it’s like something completely the opposite of what you do artistically, you still like it and it influences you if they’re good people.