Magnani Meets: Kuki from Buenos Aires to Alphabet City

Written by Francesca Magnani

It starts with an encounter, a crossing of paths, and the clic of my camera. The idea behind this column is a real-life conversation that happened haphazardly, out of chance or serendipity. This is the inspiration for Magnani Meets.

In ancient mythology Tyche / Fortuna is the goddess of fate and I have always felt the street in New York City always presents me with the people, the images and the colors that resonate with what I am currently going through emotionally or psychologically. My photography captures that.

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I ran into Kuki Gomez one cold February afternoon as I was leaving Hotel Untitled in Freeman Alley. Kuki’s addition to the Alley immediately struck me as wonderfully minimal yet utterly original. I took a portrait and asked him a few questions.

Art by Kuki Gomez / Photo by PhotoChemist

Francesca Magnani: Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

Gomez: I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and grew up there. I now live in the East Village. I am the youngest of four brothers, and my parents are Sarita and Tito. As a kid, I was always attracted to nature and art. I used to play alone, creating my own games. I studied at Art school and pursued Graphic Design at UBA (Universidad de Buenos Aires).

Magnani: What attracted you to work with tape?

Gomez: My journey with tape art began around 1995 in NYC when a friend gifted me two rolls of tape. One day, I felt the need for a change and ended up taping my entire room overnight. Despite my roommate’s initial displeasure, that night marked the beginning of my tape art career.

Magnani: What brought you to the streets of NYC?

Gomez: My first official Tape Art was on Ave B in my neighborhood. As we were emerging from the pandemic, I created a kaleidoscope mural that covered the entire block. The community came together to create what I believe is the largest Tape Art Street mural in NYC. Since then, I’ve worked with many organizations related to Open Streets across all five NYC boroughs and DOT.

Art by Kuki Gomez

Magnani: So, was tape a private affair between 1995 and the pandemic?

Gomez: In the period spanning from 1995 until the onset of the global pandemic, tape art was a deeply personal endeavor for me. It was a form of expression that I mostly kept to myself, quietly crafting my unique works of tape art within the welcoming confines of local galleries and businesses in the vibrant East Village neighborhood.

Magnani: What is your trajectory as a creative? What were you doing before becoming a street tape artist?

Gomez: My journey to becoming a street tape artist was not a direct one. Prior to this, I was immersed in the world of designing and producing special events. This career path led me to work for renowned event designers, a role that offered me the opportunity to travel across the globe. In these travels, I had the privilege of creating awe-inspiring environments for a clientele that included some of the world’s most affluent and famous individuals.

After many enriching years in this role, I felt a strong desire to branch out on my own. This led me to establish my own special events and production company, “Kuki Design Group”. With this venture, I had the opportunity to create memorable events for a diverse range of clients, including “Good Housekeeping” magazine, DIRECTV, and Pepsi.

One of the highlights of my career with Kuki Design Group was the Super Bowl weekend. For this grand event, I designed a sophisticated 3-floor club that served as the weekend’s entertainment hub. The club played host to performances by renowned artists such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and many more.

In addition to this, I also had the opportunity to create a unique set for CORONA for the “Electric Beach” music festivals. My work in the events industry was recognized with the 2011 Texas Star Award and the 2012 ISES Spirit Award. More information about my work can be found on the Kuki Design Group’s website.

Art by Kuki Gomez / Photo by PhotoChemist

Magnani: What do you like specifically about a NYC street?

Gomez: New York City holds a very special place in my heart. It is the city that embraced me and allowed me to fully express my creative potential. This city serves as a constant source of inspiration for me in numerous ways.

New York City is a living, breathing entity that is always in a state of flux. It is constantly changing and evolving, presenting me with new lessons and challenges at every turn. There have been times when the city has been tough on me, but these experiences have only served to make me stronger and more resilient.

The city also rewards me by presenting new opportunities and challenges that push me to grow as a creator. I have a deep love for New York City, and I feel that the city reciprocates this love in its own unique way.

Magnani: How do you adapt your tape art to different environments?

Gomez: Every space is unique, so each piece of tape art needs to be custom-designed for its environment. It’s a challenging process, but it’s also what makes tape art so exciting and rewarding.

Magnani: What is your vision when you scout a location?

Gomez: When I scout a location, I always consider the space, design, and architecture. My goal is to create immersive 3D installations that work harmoniously with the existing environment.

Art by Kuki Gomez

Magnani: Which equipment do you need?

Gomez: The equipment I need varies depending on the project.

Magnani: Do you only work in public spaces? If not, who are your clients?

Gomez: While I do a lot of work in public spaces, I also have private clients who commission pieces. I’ve done work for offices and private homes.

Magnani: Is there an author in the city that inspires you?

Gomez: I’m inspired by the surrealistic wave and love Mondrian’s work.

Art by Kuki Gomez / Photo by PhotoChemist

Magnani: Is there an area where you like to work? Why Freeman Alley?

Gomez: I don’t have a specific preference for where I work.

As for Freeman Alley, @Zui_nyc invited me to collaborate, and I was happy to do so. He had seen me in action at my latest work in the Flatiron & Nomad district @flatironny and follows my work.

Magnani: What are you working on? What is your next project?

Gomez: I’m currently working on a project at Herald Square on Earth Day, April 20 and with Hudson Square Business Improvement District in May. You can follow @hudsonsquarenyc for updates.

Art by Kuki Gomez / Photo by Francesca Maganani

Francesca Magnani is a Brooklyn-based Italian photographer, writer, teacher, and translator. Born and raised in Padua, she arrived in NYC as a Fulbright graduate student in 1997. Since then she has been telling in words and images the stories that move her while she chronicles her own life.

Instagram: @magnanina

Website: francescamagnani.com