Read the interview by beautiful Michael Bullock for Apartamento Magazine #8!
BRAZILIAN SUNSHINE ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE
Brazilian born Marcelo Krasilcic is a passionate man. He loves fun, friends, hosting parties, family, travel, Rio, New York City, interior design, open floor plans, tropical plants, abstract ceramics, colorful pillows, balance, beauty, bodies, sex, his boyfriend (Antonio), his two cats (Rei & Regina),yoga, vegetarian cooking, collaborating and making art. He also loves love. Marcelo has created an enviable life where all of these passions are explored daily in his work and then that joy is shared with the rest of the world through his images. Marcelo is a photographer and when he graduated college in the early 90’s he had the fortunate timing of entering his professional life when a new generation of magazines was emerging, looking for new talent and new ways to showcase art and fashion. As an early contributor Marcelo, helped set the visual tone for such influential magazines as Visionare, Purple, Purple Sex, Dazed & Confused, Self Service (and later BUTT, PIN-UP, Candy and ElectricYouth). Since these exciting beginnings, Marcelo has worked non-stop creating an amazing body of work that includes everything from ceramics, to video, to sculpture to his own line of conceptual products (Krazy Chic), but photography always remains at the core of his practice. Marcelo’s distinct images are filled with a bold Brazilian vision of the world where everything is playful, colorful, open and dripping with a happy, dynamic sexuality. The same principles are also at play in his two apartments. One in one the dirtiest neighborhood in New York - the Lower East Side-and the other in the cleanest neighborhood in São Paulo - Higienópolis.
So Marcelo, Where did you grow up in Brazil?
São Paulo. I like to tell people I moved to New York because I wanted to live in a smaller place with less people, more nature, less crime and better air. São Paulo is gigantic! I love Sao Paolo. It doesn’t compare to Rio in terms of beauty. Rio is a mixture of forest, mountains and the beach and Sao Paulo has nothing like that but it is a city that grew really fast and didn't have much urban planning. What you end up seeing in São Paulo is a patchwork of every different style, which is something I love. You can see crazy modern buildings next door to some shanty house that is covered in tiles next door to a neoclassic palace. That has been a big influence on me.
Why, because you appreciate every style?
Yeah, and you can see the beauty in how two styles interact together. I think on a poetic level it tells a lot about how people interact with each other, cause we are all so different and here we are together.
Why did you move to New York?
To go to college. I went to NYU for photography. I didn't care about New York. I went to a left-wing high school in Brazil so we learned so much shit about the states, I mean I love it, but growing up I learned all about American’s involvement with Latin American dictatorships. I was never like “Oh New York!” I came here because it was the best place to study. Although now I'm a proud American! I see the flag and my heart twitches. When I finished school, I started working and here I am. I love every minute of it. I love that my work allows me to travel so much. I like it because when you get somewhere, you're there, and it allows you to be present wherever you are because it's going to change soon, so you learn to just enjoy it.
It makes you enjoy being home more as well.
Everywhere more, because you don't have time to get used to anything. I love being home. A good place in New York is hard to come by. I was extremely lucky. I needed a place to shoot more then any thing. When I signed the lease it was a mess and I was broke. That made renovation slow and difficult. I remember a friend of mine came to visit and she left crying, “How can you live in this rat hole?” is what she told me. My parents were so sad the first time they came here. In Brazil it’s all about the buildings entrance. So entering onto a staircase they didn’t know what to do. But now they love it, my mom tells everybody it's very close to SoHo,
I was told that your parents were both involved in interior design?
Yes. My father’s side of the family were all furniture makers. He worked with his father for years before eventually opening his own store and my mother was an interior designer. She taught me how to position objects with the aim of creating a sense of balance. I still think about that in all my work today. So the importance of how things are placed has always been in my imagination.
What was your Mom’s interior design style?
She is eclectic. She likes to mix tropical elements like floral prints and rattan furniture with leather pillows and Persian rugs. She also had a Chinese influence, she liked dragons, and she is crazy about little boxes and tiny sculptures. She went through a fun period where there were little gold sculptures all over the place. Also, our country house was quite dramatic. There was a zebra room that was all black and white with zebra carpets, zebra sculptures, zebra pillows and zebra candles. There is always something very passionate in her rooms.
Did she teach you how to think visually?
Probably, she has a beautiful sense of beauty but she is also very opinionated and critical, so definitely, yeah. My mom also loves to have parties and loves to welcome people. That's something I got from her too.
What has been your favorite party here?
Once for my birthday I had dinner for fifty friends here. That was fun. The way the space works, if you have less than fifty people it feels empty. The biggest was New Years Eve 1996. I had over 300 people. At some point there was a couple having sex in the shower while people were going in and out of the bathroom. For years after people would meet me and say, “oh my god that party was so much fun!”. I think guests enjoy this place because it feels like a New York that doesn’t exist anymore. I’m due for another big one soon.
When did you get your place in São Paulo?
In 2006. My place in São Paulo is funny, it looks like I’ve only had it for a year. I don't spend much time in São Paulo because my boyfriend Antonio lives in Rio. He spends more time at my place than I do. So, it still has that feeling of a new place. I put curtains in last year, a rug last month, it takes a bit of time.
What was the most important factor in choosing your apartment there?
I needed to look out onto trees like I do here. I like the privacy of having trees, I love looking to the trees and watching the seasons pass. It's a luxury and it's something that I cherish whole-heartedly. So when I was looking for a place in São Paolo I looked in a neighborhood called Higienópolis because it has a park. So here I live in one of the dirtiest neighborhoods in New York, the Lower East Side, and in Brazil I live in Hygiene-City. Higienópolis is beautiful. It’s where a lot of the plantation owners' European mansions were built and in the late forties and fifties. Most of those homes are now apartment buildings.
Is a loft unusual in São Paulo?
Original lofts, like a factory space turned into a live-work space, is unusual. There aren’t many spaces like that in Brazil. So now, with the loft revolution, people build new buildings that look like a loft. Basically, I went there and got rid of as many walls as I could. It was very important for me to have this flow through the apartment; the idea of not having too many doors and being open was crucial. It is also a live-work space. I shot a lot of the Brazilian issue of Electric Youth there, as welI as some other projects.
Is the style of furniture the same in both apartments? Yes and no. Something amazing happened, my parents have an apartment at the beach that they sold and I inherited a lot of the furniture, so my São Paulo apartment has a beach feeling. I grew up with (these) Persian rugs that they gave me and my mom had this incredible table. The base is three giant gold metal leafs. Each stem comes up from the floor and the leaves bend so a circular piece of glass can rests on them. That table has always been on my mind, not only is it beautiful but, when I was a teenager, I was waiting for a bus in front of a gay club and this guy came over and was hitting on me--the minute he said his name I panicked because I knew he had designed the table.
Why did you panic?
I thought he would tell my parents that I was at a gay club. Nothing came out of it, but I was scared for a while. So, in Brazil I have a lot of sentimental pieces from my family. In New York I have a very specific take on what I like but I also let things happen. I bought that desk which is designed by George Nelson, the kitchen table I bought from a friend, the computer desk is more about what is sturdy, functional and comfortable.
What about your couch cover?
I never thought I would go for a floral pattern like that because it's so flamboyant, but it's so pretty. Before that I had a floor to ceiling tropical beach background behind the couch so when that came down I thought some flowers would add to the space.
How did your pillow obsession begin?
I used to have this beautiful fourteen-piece sectional sofa. I could arrange it in a U or an L shape but my cats totally destroyed it. I kept the pillows because the fabric was amazing. So I ended up with this mountain of pillows. And I started moving them around making shapes and photographing them. Then I went back to my furniture and interior design roots and I started making my own pillows cause I wanted more options.
And now you use them for everything?
I like that you can build sets and structures very fast with many different patterns and colors. They are so much fun, so playful. That’s why I started my blog. Now it has become a diary of my work, but it started as an exercise with the pillows. I was so enamored with pillow land.
And you make sculptures with them?
I exhibited the first pillow sculpture I made in a gallery and it sold! I was shocked! At first I was sad because with photography I can sell an image and I'lI still always have it. Suddenly, I couldn't play with those pillows I had made anymore. But soon I was excited and I started making new ones. They are great for the cats. I make them buildings with penthouses, mezzanines and passageways, and I've used the pillows in a lot of photographs.
So do you consider the pillows art, photo props or design?
From the beginning, actually, I've always liked the idea that they could be a cross-section; they could be a sculpture in an art show or they could be a set for a fashion portrait and fortunately I've never run out of ideas for the pillows. I either use them as the sea behind a surfboard or the twin towers of pillows that can fall and nobody will get hurt. This is new…(he says pointing to an artificial tree by the door)
What is it?
It's a planter that doubles as a cat litter box. It will look much better once it's painted white. I ordered it online.
Speaking of online products can you tell me about your brand Krazy Chic?
The name is a play on how nobody can really say my last name. So I just tell people it’s pronounced Krazy-chic. It’s basically a line of souvenirs of my work. It's more of a conceptual line than a real one because I’m the only one who buys it.
How do you produce so many types of souvenirs with no customers but you?
I found this company that can take your art and apply it to many different product with no minimum orders. If you order a Krazy Chic beer mug on-line they will make one and send it to you. It's easy, and more than any thing it's been fun to create a fictional line of products that has nothing to do with making money, but you can actually buy it. I can have all this creative output printed on t-shirts and underwear and bags. I've also created all these personal campaigns for the brand.
Most of the images are still-lifes you have made and photographed.
Yeah, It's the Krazy Chic logos and still-lifes and some designs using the pillows. I'm a big fan of the design with the number sixty-nine made out of many key chains I inherited that key chain collection from my parents. Sixty-nine is the year I was born, the erotic year and it all makes sense. I'll get you a sixty-nine T-shirt.
What are you working on right now that you are overjoyed about?
I'm really excited because I'm going to have a book out next year. It's all work from the '90s. Right now it's titled '20s in the '90s. It’s about being in my twenties in the '90s. It's also very much about being loving. I moved here in '90 and I finished college in '92. At that time there was so much openness in photography and all these new magazines—Purple, Visionaire, Self-Service and Dazed—were all looking for new, passionate ways of showing work. Being more conceptual with fashion was celebrated then.
You were shooting for all of them?
Yeah, it's right when I finished school and I went from doing more conceptual work to being really passionate about fashion. So the book is all 90’s and all film photography, which is really part of my formation. I use to spend months in the lab printing my own photographs and loving every second of it. I was beyond broke, my credit card bills were ridiculous, but I was really passionate about the work. My life was work and work was life, it was one thing.
What were you focused on in this period?
Coming from Brazil the whole concept of gay pride was new and very exciting to me. It was a time when I was longing for love and longing for intimacy. My graduation work in college was different men in bed with me. It was passionate but very hard because I had no money. So the book is all about that and in retrospect once the book got finished in terms of the editing and layout, it's a lot about loving and being accepted. So on one page it's pictures of me with somebody in bed, then the next page is my parent’s being loving with each other, and the next is my mom being loving with me. As much freedom as we have in America, and nowadays as much freedom as people have in Brazil, the idea of being gay and having a committed relationship is still foreign to a lot of people and is still a crime in some countries. (looking through the book mock up)
And there are many interiors?
Yeah, I've always been interested in shooting interiors because they tell a lot about a person. I was really interested in chance and choice and how you make so many choices within a limited array of possibilities of things you can get with the money you have. At the time I was questioning, "how much am I in charge of it all? Am I really responsible for how this living room is?" I have my choices but I have limited money, time and options in what I can put in this living room. So I was curious about that challenge.
So do you have a conclusion on chance and choice? It seems that both have been good to you?
Yeah, I love my everyday experience of working with people who are creative to make images that are going out into the world that will influence people in one way or another. That is wonderful. And when you do that and make money it's really exciting. What I learned by putting the book together is that back then, even though I was as excited as I was, there was a lot of angst because everything was so uncertain. Every exciting moment seemed fleeting, it made me see how precious that time was and it makes me realize how precious time is today. In the sense that every experience, every photograph, every kiss is so profound and nourishing in itself. The idea is to enjoy whatever is happening, because it's great.