Unmasking the Controversial Graffitist, Geco
If you are an Italian local, you may be familiar with the ubiquitous “GECO” tag which adorns many a wall and garage door throughout Rome. The anonymous Banksy-esque street artist was recently caught and unmasked, leaving him with both a two-year prison sentence and a string of hefty fines to cough up.
“Geco was reported for defacing several buildings in the city,” said Mayor Virginia Raggi. The graffiti artist was locally famed for his prolific series of tags throughout the city, but was they worth it for how his story ended?
Today we dig into Geco’s short-lived legacy and discuss the theories behind the anonymous-street-tagging-artist archetype – which is becoming increasingly familiar.
Who is Geco?
We know very little about Geco’s background other than that he is suspected to be a native Roman male in his mid to late twenties. This Italian graffiti artist has proven to be notoriously elusive, evading identification for over 18 months of active investigation before being eventually caught and unmasked by police.
Officials say they found “hundreds of spray cans, thousands of stickers, ropes, fire extinguishers, cords, locks, six mobile phones, computers, brushes, rollers and buckets of paint” inside his studio. His current whereabouts and identity have not been disclosed to the public.
Geco’s Artistic Statement
It is easy to recognize Geco’s signature tag as it’s as clear as to when you play online pokies for casino bonuses and can immediately see what’s on offer. The capitalized four-letter moniker is blocky, bold, and often painted in large format. His letters have typically been painted either white with a black outline or black with a white outline.
His “canvases” are anything but – this artist is known for leaving his tag in perilous, seemingly unreachable places. You can find Geco’s mark on water towers, ten-story apartment blocks, garage doors, and massive bridges. Occasionally, he paints on smaller surfaces like bins, garage doors, and street signs.
One of the most controversial pieces of work Geco created was that of tagging his name on an ancient Roman wall which was built somewhere between 271 AD and 275 AD. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Roman officials, who commented that the artist “tarnished the Aurelian Walls with his silly tag”. It is often stinting like this one that adds a layer of controversy to the names of street artists around the world.
Why Geco’s Art is Controversial
Graffitists have been around for thousands of years. The first-ever drawings and poems scrawled on public surfaces date back to ancient Roman and Greek timelines, eventually being popularised in parts of America in the 1960s before becoming an international commodity.
Police and government officials have a long history of rivalry with street artists, predominantly due to their lack of consideration for public or historical property – even though the artists themselves are not always aware of their significance. Geco, for example, first stepped over a line when he accidentally tagged an Italian Secret Service hideout that he believed was an abandoned building.
Overall, Geco’s story is not unique to him or his country. Graffitists exist in every part of the world, constructing their own platforms for creative expression out of the very walls of their cities. Heroic to some, nothing short of a nuisance to others. Who will be the next masked artist in search of fame?