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Cope2> Artist

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Fernando Carlo a.k.a COPE2 is an American artist, active in the graffiti scene of New York.  Cope2’s involvement in the street art scene of the 80s and 90s progressively made his reputation grow, making him one of the most well-known writers in the US. Controversial, yet iconic, the artist’s story and his involvement in the graffiti since the last decades of the 20th century shed light on the history of graffiti itself and its evolution over the years. Cope2 never attended any art school and usually attributes his success to nature and God. “God created me to create. It’s all by nature, not by art school. It’s from my very soul, with all my energy. Everyone is great in his special way. My way is to be an artist.”, he claims in one of his interviews. He started as part of the underground scene of New York and, even though tagging of walls and subway trains brought him to jail, this further extended his reputation and never discouraged him from writing. On the contrary, such legal issues led him to be open about experimenting with paintings canvas as an alternative to street art. Nonetheless, his story is not the story of an underground writer, who remained unknown or gained little fame. Cope2’s work exists equally on the streets, inside the world’s biggest galleries and as part of some of the biggest international brands, such as Adidas and Converse.

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The success story of Cope2 starts in 1977, when he first started tagging under the influence of his cousin Chris. They were both part of the second generation that was interested in graffiti in the USA, the “motherland” of graffiti, as the artist describes it. Later on, the artist established his own writing crew “Kids Destroyer” -afterwards named “King’s Destroyer”-, which were both active in New York. It was there when the “Wildstyle”, complex and intriguing, was born and flourished with the artist incorporating it into his work and playing a major role in the development of it as a style per se.

Cope2 has always shown his respect for the writers before him and in his first steps in the world of graffiti, he was interested in learning from them. This is the way he described his first encounter with them in an interview with Widewalls in 2006: “When I started, to see these graffitis one subway cars was great – the colors, the letters – I wanted to learn from the original artists, not just copy. New York is the motherland of graffiti, I am part of the second generation and I wanted to get my special style.”

The style of Cope2 is similar to the work of Tracy 168, T-Kid 170 and others who helped establish and develop Wildstyle back in the 1980s. His art consists of a series of arrows, curves and letters with the intention to create the impression of depth and, thus, visual perception. In any case, at that time it was key for any writer who wanted to prove themselves to achieve an instantly recognizable aesthetic. Naturally, this led to more and more complicated forms, which were difficult to read –at least by people who are not familiar with it-, but, undoubtedly, boosted the creativity of the artists of the era, who saw this an opportunity to stand out.

During the mid-1990s Cope2 started slowly transitioning from the streets to the art scene of the galleries. At that time, street art was not as popular as it is in our days and the general public’s idea of it was still inextricably connected to ghettos, drug dealing etc. The artist has never hidden his troubling past and avoids idealizing it, as a way to enhance his career and artistic persona. On the contrary, he mentions the following: “Oh man, there’s nothing to be proud of in hustling, but I had my first child at the age of 16, my son. So I had to make money to support him and his mother. At the time, my jobs weren’t paying the bills, it was real hard. The struggles to make it through every day were tough, and then I had my daughter in 1988, so I had to really step up the money income. I struggled and did what I had to do to survive – it was a jungle out there. South Bronx was a battlefield.”

The beginning of the new millennium found Cope2 in a different place in his career, as he started focusing more and more on ways to establish himself in the art scene of galleries and museums. Even though the artist had started working on canvas much earlier than the 2000s, it was then when he made this dynamic twist and agreed to exhibit indoors systematically. Using his own words: “Street art wasn’t even popular at that time and they contacted me to be part of it. Why not? I was getting tired of working in terrible jobs, so I started doing little shows in graffiti shops around the world and started getting into it more. I was getting too old – getting arrested for graffiti in your thirties ain’t cool – and I just kept on until I started being part of group shows here and there. Now I’m doing solo shows and selling paintings worldwide in galleries and auctions throughout the world, pretty amazing, isn’t it?”.

From bombing subway trains to canvas painting, Cope2 is an indisputable legend of the New York graffiti scene and one of the pioneers of the Bronx style. Today he is considered one of the most influential writers, since the late-2000s. His untamed art has won the public’s recognition and its place in both the streets and in some of the world's biggest art institutions. At this moment, Cope2 can be found working inside studios focusing on expressionist style pieces, intertwined with his typical bubble lettering and tags. Nonetheless, his current work is still loyal to his original street art roots, maintaining an identifiable style, which helped him emerge as one of the US most legendary writers.