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Galeria Union opens in Palermo

After two happy years in San Telmo, Galeria Union has moved to a new location in Palermo. Set in a quiet street in Palermo Hollywood, the new location provides a workspace for the graffitimundo team, a gallery space for exhibitions and events and a teaching and production space for artists.

This year we will be running a series of art exhibitions and events, and are finalising a program of artist-led workshops on stencil art, graffiti and muralism. More news to follow!

If you’d like to visit the gallery we currently have a group exhibition on display from a number of the urban art scene’s leading artists.

The new gallery is at Costa Rica 5929. We are open from Monday to Friday, 12 til 7pm, and on weekends and outside of the hours by appointment. You can see a selection of available works online  here: www.galeriaunion.com. Please feel free to visit us!

Here are a few photos from the new space, and our opening party last week.

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Google Cultural Institute

We’re proud to have joined Google’s Cultural Institute as a partner in their Street Art Project, which aims to document and street art from around the world.

We have created a collection of over 300 images which represent some of the best examples of urban art from Buenos Aires, both past and present, together with gallery works from some of the scene’s leading artists.

The high resolution images can be magnified to reveal minute levels of detail such as brush strokes and wall texture. The images are available on strictly non commercial basis, and all intellectual property rights remain with the artists.

In addition to the photo collection, our partnership with Google has enabled us to create virtual exhibitions which explore different aspects of the scene and its history, and virtual guided tours in English and Spanish using Google Street View.

We’re also happy to be able to offer a  mobile app, available for free through Google Play for Android phones  (IOS coming soon..)

Visit graffitimundo’s collection of works here.

Jaz in Morroco

Jaz has just finished creating a new mural titled “The Shoe Thief” in Rabat, Morocco for the Jidar Festival.

The dynamics of tension, violence and tribal identity are explored in this towering mural. The painted piece incorporates an aesthetic Jaz has developed in his collages, where he has created both murals and gallery works entirely from layers of coloured paper.

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May Exhibitions

The first week in May was a big week in the world of Argentine urban art, with three exhibitions by some of the country’s most talented and influential artists opening in Palermo.

Elian, Pum Pum and Chu make up the trio exhibiting in ELSI DEL RIO Contemporary Art’s  show entitled “Osmosis”, street art stalwart HIC is hosting the second ever solo show “Retroceder Nunca” by the superb El Marian while Ever is taking over Dinamica Galeria with his ambitious interactive piece called “La Cabeza”.

ELSI DEL RIO has united Pum Pum, Elian and Chu under the umbrella of “Osmosis”, a term that, in this instance, speaks about the current position of urban art as something that doesn’t exist exclusively in the streets, but which has transcended traditional barriers and now resides firmly within the remit of the art circuit. These three artists are joined by the urban quality of their work, both on the streets and off, and were chosen to represent a departure from the idea that graffiti is vandalism.

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“Osmosis” showcases a shared language learned in the streets which translates here into a diverse collection of works. Chu’s playful sculptures and lacquered wooden compositions echo his geometric explosions on walls. Elian scales down his seemingly free-flowing, yet carefully controlled bursts of colour, that run off pages suspended in framed glass. Pum Pum goes interstellar with a collection of canvases that take her signature figures of cats and girls and send them to space, orbited by planets and wrapped in planetary rings. The range of media present in the show reaffirms that these artists are not bound by the limitations of the perception that urban art should be confined to the exterior.

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Mariano Antedominico, or El Marian, is a self-taught visual artist whose relationship with urban art began five years ago. He took a course in muralism and since then has been painting in the streets, dedicating himself to the craft for the past three years.

El Marian’s subject matter ranges from scenes of chaotic protests to tributes to his musical heroes such as the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch and immortalising icons from popular culture like Marty McFly.

Dealing with themes of anarchy, social revolution and injustice, his realistic portraits are often set against a blurred background reminiscent of army camouflage, a technique which is scaled up or down within each of his painterly pieces.

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For “Retroceder Nunca” (meaning “Never Retreat”), only his second ever solo show, El Marian reinterprets photographs from all around the world in acrylic, latex, watercolour and ink of civil unrest, child rebels and protesters, to create thought provoking and dynamic pieces. His powerful works convey the physicality and tension of riots, with the surge of the crowd and the rush of adrenaline palpable through the positioning of the drama heavily in the foreground of the canvas.

These pieces contrast with depictions of tender moments between kissing protesters, and subversive pieces showing rioters in rainbow balaclavas. “Retroceder Nunca” is an accomplished show with a definitive activist energy by an artist who is set to become one of the protagonists of the local scene sooner rather than later.

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“La Cabeza” is, incredibly, Ever’s (Nicolas Romero Escalada) first solo show on home soil. The artist, whose international profile has been steadily increasing in recent years, has gone bold with this spectacle. Supported by Dinamica Galeria, Ever continues to favour installation over painting in his gallery work with this engaging and imposing installation, which is brought to life by a mesmerising dance performance.

As often seen in Ever’s work, Chairman Mao takes centre stage in this piece. The immense suspended head of the Chinese dictator by sculptor Marcos Berta dominates the space, looming large and yellow above the glass bottomed floor below, and is a conceptual examination of the ideology transmitted through traditional Chinese Communist posters, where Mao’s head is always suspended over his subjects, the people.

Once again Ever uses Communist imagery to explore his fascination with its inherent contradiction, using a backdrop of cascading books superimposed with the symbol of the hammer and sickle to reinforce the aesthetic. “La Cabeza” examines the conflict that arises when it is left to a mere human “body” to relay a system of thought to a population, imbuing the figure with power and creating a false idealisation by the masses. The performance furthers this investigation by exposing the obsession with power.

The act involves 3 dancers, close friends of the artist, and a mask of Mao’s head, which, when worn by each performer, brings about a chilling transformation in the trio; he who wears the head peers eerily through the eyes, slowly surveying his audience, while the other two cower and clutch at his feet, amplifying both their desire and their submission to the Communist figurehead. With “La Cabeza”, Ever shows us the scale of his ambition, and that embracing controversy and risk can result in powerful and captivating work.

“Osmosis” runs until June 10 from Tuesday to Friday 1pm – 7pm and Saturdays from 11pm – 3pm at Humboldt 1510.

“Retroceder Nunca” runs until June 6 from Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm – 9pm, Thames 1885

“La Cabeza” runs until May 27 from Tuesday to Thursday, 8pm – 00pm, Gorriti 5741

(Article by Sorcha O’Higgins)

“David”

Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada is a Cuban-American artist whose large-scale works in charcoal are unique in terms of both scale and medium. Having left his mark on the city some years ago when he painted a tribute to his recently deceased father-in-law in Colegiales, Rodriguez-Gerada was back in Buenos Aires at the end of this summer to create a stunning and moving mural in Monserrat.

The wall, which is the backdrop to a car park, bears the face of a young boy. This is “David”, an 11-year-old student in the Isauro Arancibia Educational Centre in neighbouring San Telmo, which provides a space for 200 homeless children and teenagers to attend school. The centre faces potential demolition to make way for the Metrobus and the mural was painted to highlight its plight.

The wall forms part of ‘Identity’, a series of hyper-realistic portraits of anonymous locals that the artist began in 2002. The intention is to elevate these unknown residents to the status of social icons, and to challenge the idea of what is presented to the public via large format works, usually via advertising.

The project was realised in conjunction with ResNonVerba.
Photos courtesty of Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada

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Sweet Toof in Buenos Aires

The British artist Sweet Toof has been brandishing his gummy teeth and skulls all over Buenos Aires for a couple of weeks now. Invited to Buenos Aires by the organisation Res Non Verba, he has been pasting, rolling and tagging from Quilmes to Saavedra in the time that he has been here. Sorcha O’Higgins spoke to him about his signature fangs, his career in the streets and how he feels about painting in Buenos Aires.

I first remember seeing the mod and punk graffiti in England when I was really young, and saying to my mum “What’s that?”, and my mum said “That’s naughty boys writing in the street”. And I remember feeling a bit of a thrill, like, I’d like to do that. Then, hip hop came in, and I got into breakdancing and all that in the 80’s, also films like “Wild Style” and “Style Wars” were cult hip-hop and graffiti films.

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I started tagging in a highlighter pen, funny names like “Hovis” and other little words. When I was about 13, me and my friends would take paint from the garden centre, but then some people got caught and I got paranoid, so instead I would save my dinner money and buy little cans of spray paint and keep them at home. When my parents went to bed, I’d climb out my bedroom window, across a roof and down a drainpipe. I’d borrow my next-door neighbour’s bike and go out and hit electricity boxes with Smurf characters. I’d see them the next day on the way to school from the bus.

I kind of stopped a bit when I was about 18, but I was always still aware of graffiti. I went to art school in Bangor. I had 2 suitcases of drawings instead of a portfolio, and they put me into fine art. Then I did another degree in Coventry for 3 years, where I really got into using older methods there, printmaking, etching etc. The attitude at the time, in the 90’s, was that “painting is dead”, so there was a lot of buzz about video and installation art, so I really rebelled against that and started to do a lot of oil painting, still life and skulls. I’d go to the market and buy dead birds and rabbits and hang them up in the studio and paint them, studying nature in my house like a madman! But I was still going out and doing letter pieces and characters and stuff. So I was doing both; I had the discipline of the painting, but then the fun of going out. Then I went to the Royal Academy of Art in London, did a lot of life drawing and painting. I taught for a while, but I didn’t really like it.

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The teeth started to creep in to my pieces when I got to London. I used to write “Spy” and in the “S” I’d do some teeth, but I was also doing self-portraits at the time with a magnifying glass, so my teeth seemed really big. I’d do oil paintings with these big mouths on them…teeth were everywhere. I remembered the sweets you’d get when you were a kid, the gummy teeth and the fried eggs. I was looking at graffiti and just seeing names, characters, names, characters, and I just wanted to come up with something really fast, something that you could throw up. The teeth are easy to do, just a few swirls, and then pink/black/white, just three colours. It started to lend itself to the oil painting, so it kind of began to cross over. Painting in the streets would become subject matter for paintings, leaning over a wall, seeing the sky at night, that kinda goes into your brain. You remember the light and stuff…

I love oil painting as much as I love doing stuff in the street. I still do a lot of skulls, a lot of ruffnecks, hillbillies. But I still see teeth everywhere, since I started doing them in 2005. I’ve sort of stopped doing them now, after this. I feel like you do things until you get bored of them, like you’ve got a sponge, and you stop when it’s wrung out.

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London is so gentrified, a lot of “pay as you go” walls, lots of street art tours and a lot of them are shit. The walls are also controlled by people who are only in it for what they can get out of it, jumping on the bandwagon. There are so many rules in graffiti now as well, like “you have to do a piece, a shadow, a cloud, an outline, a power line, no drips” etc. etc. the language is very confined. I like to be a little less defined, so people can’t really say what you are. I still like doing throw ups and bubble letters and rollers, but I don’t like people to label me and say “Oh, he’s a street artist” or “Oh, he’s a graffiti artist”…I don’t know what I am, I just love painting and like minded people, people who have energy and are doing things…you bounce from that, don’t you?

Lately, I like to not tell anyone where I’m going, say that I’m going fishing and head off to paint and travel. I met Belen (from Res Non Verba) at a show I did in New York, then she invited me here. I didn’t think it would happen, but then all of a sudden here I am! I love painting here. You’ve got blue skies, the weather is great, you can paint in your shorts at night, you can hear all the insects chirping, it just feels really chill. I can imagine it’s got other sides to it. I sort of feel like staying!! I want to come back next summer. I’ve done some walls during the day, and a lot of stuff at night. The police came once, and I freaked and ran, I thought they were coming for us, but they just drove by! In London, there are CCTV cameras everywhere, and that’s how they get you. We put 100 posters around at night, that was fun. And you can get really nice paper here as well. I painted with Sonni, he was really chill and nice to work with. I painted with Malegria and El Marian in La Boca. I went out a few times with Perla and Raws as well, and Borneo. A few walls with permission, and a few cheeky ones.

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More from Sweet Toof on his website: sweettoof.com

Interview by Sorcha O’Higgins. Photos courtesy of Res Non Verba.

Zosen & Mina

Barcelona-based duo Zosen Bandido and Mina Hamada, Argentine and Japanese respectively, have just come to the end of a 3 month tour of Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. Zosen and Mina Hamada’s collaborative work is characteristically free-flowing, colourful and optimistic, reflecting the real-life personas of the artists who are nothing but buena onda. Starting their trip with a show called “Cultura Popular” in Club Cultural Matienzo, they moved through Cordoba, Mendoza and Salta before heading further north to Boliva and Peru, ending their trip with an exhibition entitled “Nomadas” in Paraiso Galeria in Lima. Sorcha O’Higgins talked to them about their experiences in South America and how the scene here is different from that in Europe.

Zosen: I got into graffiti through skateboarding. I was born in Buenos Aires, but my mother is from Spain, so I’ve been living in Barcelona for a long time. When I lived in Buenos Aires when I was young, I used to skate. There was no culture of graffiti here yet, it didn’t exist. Sure, there were the political paintings, paintings by rock and roll bands, but no graffiti like in New York. But people were skating, that culture existed here then, like the punk/skate scene. So when I got to Barcelona, I continued skating and the people who were skating there were also into graffiti. I started doing tags, got into doing some really bad letter.

Mina Hamada: I had never painted in the street before living in Barcelona. Before, when I was living in Japan, I didn’t know anything about murals. I used to draw all the time in Japan, and write stories and poems which I’d illustrate. So when I moved to Barcelona in 2009, I met loads of people who were painting in the streets. I’d go out with them, to parties, or to paint. At the start I was a bit nervous, or embarrassed as I didn’t know how to use spray paint, but I did it anyway and really enjoyed it. 

Zosen: Now, painting in the streets in Barcelona is totally illegal. You get in lots of trouble if you’re caught, so you have to choose where you’re going to paint very carefully before you go out, so that your wall lasts and doesn’t get removed immediately. In Latin America, you can paint wherever you want.

Mina Hamada: At the start, I’d paint in abandoned places in Barcelona. But it’s more fun here, in Latin America. You just talk to the owners of the house, and if you get on well with each other, you can paint. It’s a lot easier in Buenos Aires.

Zosen: I’ve painted a few small walls in Buenos Aires before. One near Parque Chacabuco and another with Mart and those guys, near the River Plate stadium. There’s actually still a bit of that one left. At that time, people like Blu still hadn’t come here, so no one really knew how to paint up high, people were only painting as far as their arm would reach. Seeing as I had come from Europe, I knew you could do it that way, so we painted the whole top part. That was in 2006, and when we went back in December it was still there.

Zosen: Barracas is like a “Hall of Fame”, there are so many walls. Pol Corona, Mart, Jaz, Pastel and Chu have all painted down there too. Seeing as we were here, we wanted to paint something, so they invited us to paint a walls that’s right in front of the Sullair buildings. The house belongs to a woman called Susana, who’s lived in the neighbourhood for 45 years. Everyone calls her “Abu”, short for “abuela” (grandmother). She was so great. We spent 3 days down there. We ate in her house, we hung out with her grandchildren.  The part of Barracas we were in was more industrial, but the dodgier part is just around the corner. One day when we were painting, we saw a guy who had just been robbed running after the thief. The police came…then you realise that it’s not Palermo, you know?! The houses, the people…it’s more humble. But, also I think that’s why it’s more interesting to paint down there, the people aren’t able to repair their walls, it’s almost like you’re not doing an artwork on their house, you’re giving it a new coat of paint! It was also great to really get to know another part of the city that most people don’t get to see.

Both: Painting in Mendoza for the Muropolis Project was fun. We painted in a school in Mendoza that the artist Quino, who did the Mafalda cartoon, had studied in. That was in a sketchy area too. 15 year old kids were asking Mina for her number, asking her to draw the “5 points”. She didn’t know what it was, they told us it’s something from a videogame that the kids tag there these days. It was great to paint with some old friends, and to get to know the artists from Mendoza, as well as meet artists, like Lelo https://www.facebook.com/lelo021?fref=ts  from Brazil, that we hadn’t met before. There were 30 artists painting, 15 from Mendoza and 15 from other places. We went out and danced cumbia one night, drank lots of wine, went to lots of asados. We went rafting too!! It was like summer camp.

 Both: The scene in the Northern Argentina is pretty young, and a lot smaller than Buenos Aires or Cordoba. But it’s nice because there are more indigenous-style murals. We also painted in La Paz and Cochabamba in Bolivia. The scene there is kind of similar to Argentina in that there’s a lot of freedom, you just ask the owner for permission. We painted a big mural in a workshop in December, the rainy season. The weather was tricky, we were constantly looking at the forecast to see when it wouldn’t be raining, getting up at 5.30am to start painting at 7am and we’d have to stop at 12pm. Acrylic takes longer to dry than spray paint as well, which was problematic.

Both: We saw lots of artisan craftsmanship in the north.  But we can’t say how much that will influence our next projects until we get back to Europe. Three months of travelling and meeting so many different people…it will take some time to process all that and see what comes out of it! But it’s cool that we’ve spent so much time with locals wherever we’ve been, you get a much better understanding of the place that way.

Zosen: The photographs we took will form part of a project that I’m working on. When I did the trip in 2006, I went to Brazil, Chile and Argentina, and I started to write some articles for a few magazines, explaining a bit about the reality of the street art scene down here, so people in Europe could understand the differences. Like, in Chile, they mix spray paint to get different colours. I mean, you’d never see that in Europe. In Sao Paolo too, you’ve got “pixação”, and some guys do it with a tiny roller. So, for every city that I’ve been to, I’ve written something, so I’m going to make a little book, with the photos that we’ve taken. Maybe we’ll do a video too, but probably just with the photos, to show places like El Alto in Bolivia.

 

Making Beautiful Mistakes
     Defi Gagliardo reflects on his career as an artist, the transition from streets to galleries and his recent solo show in UNION

Making beautiful mistakes – interview with Defi Gagliardo

“When I make a mistake, I find a new way to move forward”

Defi Gagliardo reflects on his career as an artist, the transition from streets to galleries, the art market and his solo show in UNION, titled “Fuck I Missed”.

I studied and taught at UBA for three years. We made the magazine FASE, which was super anti-academic. So much so, it went full circle and teachers began to use it. The first edition was published in black and white, the idea was to challenge the way design was taught.  We reviewed the contents of each design course, so students could choose the way they learnt. It was our way of taking revenge on the way the system was organised.

My time at university inspired me to do the exact opposite of what we were taught. I think studying graphic design challenges you in a different way to other visual arts programs, because you have to focus more on the concept. The design course I took was very prescriptive. I butted heads a lot.

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From 2001, I was painting constantly. I was careful about choosing walls… we used walls in a similar way to how Facebook is used today. We’d use walls to communicate something, like the launch of one of our magazines. I believe that social networks have killed creativity, or at least mine.  Today, people find out information through their computers rather than on the streets…. and that’s something I can’t adapt to. I grew up in another world.

Graffiti stopped exciting me when it became a competition to see who’s best. That’s when the concept was lost for me. To replace painting in the streets, I made the transition to painting in galleries. I began spending less time painting in the street and more in the studio, and after a while, I found the street obsolete. From 2004 to 2009 I had the opportunity to travel a lot and paint.

My artistic career is a bit strange. I started working with galleries outside the country before I started working with local galleries. It was around 2008 or 2009 when gallery owners started advising me on how to exhibit my work. I think a lot about how the show will be presented before I start to paint.

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It took a long time for urban art to reach galleries, and when it did I was no longer a part of it.  I’m aware that my work changed during this period and turned towards fine art. Street art’s arrival has been great in some contexts, it’s reached a lot of people. Whilst there’s a market for it elsewhere in the world, I don’t think it will really thrive here. The market depends on a socioeconomic model that we don’t have. It’s still a small niche in Argentina.

My work can’t be described as being just one thing. I got recognition in the street for painting cats, but I was very active in other ways as well. I used to put stickers on supermarket shelves, then I would advertise them on the street with posters I’d put up that said, “Visit the exhibition in the cookie aisle”.

I started experimenting with moments frozen in time. Like frames in a film. That’s when my work diversified and I began making my boxes,  each of which contains a story that develops as I build the scene. I look at the boxes as a way to capture the fragility of a moment. Each box takes a lot of time to make, selecting the components, sanding the wood, wiring the electrical circuits. I make all of it myself.

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Creating a collage means experimenting until you find the elements that fit. I like doing puzzles, trying to find faces in things. Maybe they are ideas or memories that I’ve lost somewhere, and I’m looking for ways to visualise them. I made collage faces for my exhibition “Fuck, I Missed”, and also donkeys using a  similar technique.  In all of my exhibitions there’s always a donkey chasing a carrot, a sort of symbolic representation of the dynamic between work and deception. But the whole concept came about by accident, while I was messing about with the elements of the piece.

I’ve known Pedro (Perelman) for years. We make music together, and we painted a piece for this show based on a track made. We understand each other very well when we’re working, but wanted to exhibit something different from our collaborations painting walls. This is the first time we’ve painted on canvas together.

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My paintings are an explosion of energy and all its layers. Some are more subtle and hidden. I might draw something then paint over it, but there is always something that can be found. I call my abstract works “scribbles”, and I’ve mainly worked with primary colours for my latest exhibition. The mistakes are always clear in my work, and when I make them, I find a new way to move forward.

“Fuck, I Missed” is a celebration of error, and  a celebration of chaos. It is trash and harmony. The challenge for me is to drive the composition towards an aesthetic balance, until it borders on chaos. The rest is instinct.

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Interview by Ana Laura Montenegro

To view more works by Defi Gagliardo, you can download a catalogue here.

Interview: Jaz & Pastel

After a collective absence of close to 6 months, Argentine muralists Jaz and Pastel are back in Buenos Aires and have collaborated to paint two amazing new walls in Barracas.

Located under a bridge next to the Centro Metropolitano de Diseño, the walls depict a procession of characters, half man/half beast, by Jaz, juxtaposed against a floral background by Pastel. Jaz takes influences from Latin American traditions and combines them with local cultures and animals to create often violent scenes. Pastel contextualises his work through the use of local flora and fauna and sets this against a deeper understanding of the site, resulting in a delicate and muted representation of an area.

Jaz and Pastel say they have created a “micro-environment” of Barracas underneath the bridge. We caught up with them in their shared studio in Villa Crespo to find out more about the wall itself and the experience of working together.

Graffitimundo (GM) – When was the last time you painted together?

Pastel (P) – The first and last time?

Jaz (J) –  We’ve painted together before, but the last time was in 2011. It’s not there anymore, it was in Saavedra. It was two of my guys facing each other, Pastel did a geometric, architectural drawing in the middle. It was good, simple. Really nice. It was for a video, but I never saw it. For a TV program on the city channel or something…

GM – When did you decide to paint this wall?

J – Just recently. When I got back from my trip. Before I got back, Pol Corona had asked me if I wanted to paint the wall, and had sent me a photo. When I went to see it, the first week I got back, I thought it was huge and that I didn’t have much time, and he [Pastel] was still abroad, so I asked him if he wanted to paint it with me when he got back.

Pastel (P) – So I changed my flight and came straight home!

GM – How did you decide what you were going to paint?

J – Pastel had just been painting in Barcelona with Alexis Diaz from Puerto Rico, and Alexis ran out of time and couldn’t finish, so Pastel started to paint all around Alexis’ piece and I saw the photo and thought “Wow, it’d be cool to do it like that”, the same vibe, like between the two of us we would do a giant pattern of figures and Pastel’s flowers.

GM – This wall seems different to most collaborations. The work isn’t as separated as it usually is. That was intentional?

Both – Yeah, definitely.

GM – How did you collaborate in terms of themes or styles on the wall?

J – We went to the wall and we just said, ok, let’s do this like this, that like that…

P – I mean, each of us already knows how the other one works really well, so in two words we had it, it was really easy… So we said, we’d do the guys running and the plants of the area, and that was it really.

J – I went by myself one day and marked out my part on one side…

P – Then I went and did my part….

GM – You guys are good friends. Do you like painting together?

J – Not really…(laughs)

P – Not anymore, not after painting this wall…(laughing). For me, I suppose, Franco is older than me and he’s been painting for longer. Having shared this studio for a while, you learn a lot from the other person, so sharing the wall is exactly the same, it’s like an extension of our studio.

J – It’s weird cos at the moment, none of us are used to painting together. We each do our own work and…

GM – Why is that?

J – Because we’ve become bourgeois (laughs)… No, because every artist does his own thing and is very independent in his work. So we’ve stopped collaborating as much. Everyone’s work has its own weight and it can be difficult to to relate your work to someone else’s. And also because we’re constantly moving around, I’m here, he’s there… With Pastel I knew that it wouldn’t be very hard to collaborate.

P – It’s also a question of scale. It can be complicated to share a wall that big, especially if you’re not going to use the traditional language of “graffiti”, where each artist has his own part of the wall. The way we wanted to do these walls was to do both of them together to produce one single work.

GM – So do you prefer to work this way, or more independently?

J – I always like working alone. But sometimes there’s an incentive to collaborate because you like the other person’s work, because you’re interested to see how it turns out or because of friendship. I remember that about the graffiti scene, that everyone painted everything together. But now I’m a bit older, and I prefer to work alone.

GM – So did you have permission to paint the wall?

J – It’s a commission by Sullair, the lift company. They run community programs in Barracas, and organise different projects – this is one of them. They didn’t give us any instructions. They paid us, but we were totally free to paint what we wanted.

P – The crazy thing is that even though we were free to paint what we wanted, the walls don’t belong to the actual factory, it’s a public space. They didn’t have permission to paint there…

J – The reality is that if you’re going to do something with permission, especially in that neighbourhood where it really needs it, you’ll lose three months waiting for the official go ahead, so they opt for just going ahead with things anyway.

GM – So you guys have a good relationship with Sullair?

Both – Yeah, yeah.

J – Yeah, the best. Really good. For a company, they’re really great about getting things done. It’s big, so they have the facilities. They’re all about giving back to the community. They fix things, they cut the grass, loads of stuff. It’s really impressive what they do down there.

GM – Jaz, are you still working with gasoline and tar?

J – No. It’s been a while since I’ve used “weird” materials. Most of the big walls I’ve done internationally have been in regular, latex paint because most have them have been commissioned, or at festivals where it’s more about pure muralism. They don’t want an ephemeral work, they want something that will last. I try to use those [weird] materials when it’s a piece I’m doing for myself, or a smaller project.

P – Painting in a festival with those types of materials is kind of contradictory as well, using really basic materials when you have the luxury of painting with whatever you want.

GM – Pastel, do you always just paint with latex?

P – I use latex, and a lot of ink as well. For the details, because it has a different texture, a different consistency and fluidity.

GM – You have both been painting huge walls around the world recently. Has that had an influence on what you painted here?

J – Well in comparison to the walls we’ve done abroad, this is really small. It’s very long, but it’s easy. It’s covered, it’s protects you from the rain and the sun, it’s not an awkward wall.

P – It has a very human proportion as well, it’s not that high. But ok, if you turned it on its side, it would be a 9 story building. So that’s big. But we’re used to working at this scale. You get to work closer to the wall, it’s much more dynamic, you’re close to the materials…

GM – Jaz, you recently started working with collage. Has that influenced this wall in any way?

J – Not really on those walls, more on what I’m doing inside, for my gallery work. Eventually I’d love to do it in the streets, but to do it in the streets you’d need a totally different method of working that I’ve never done. I’ve never tried using paper in the streets, so I don’t know how to start. I’d have to start with something small, easy, straightforward, closeby…I wanted to use paper on the wall in Barracas, but because of the size and texture of the wall, it’s very porous, it would never last. It would last for a month, tops. Also using paper in the streets would be connected to that idea of using ephemeral materials, and as it’s a commission…

GM – Pastel, there is always some deeper context to your work – historical, geographical etc. Is there an element of that in these walls in Barracas?

P – Yeah. Generally I try to create a relationship with the context, the environment – the history, the geography, the people, the society, nature, the flora and fauna…also to create a feeling of the identity of the area and a sense of belonging for the mural. Usually that translates into using wild vegetation, small plants and representing that on the wall. It could appear just as a pattern, something decorative, but behind it there is a search for the identity of that particular place.

GM – So did you pick flowers from around the bridge in Barracas?

P – Yeah, I always pick flowers and plants from the bottom of the wall, but here there was loads of vegetation above the bridge near the train tracks, so I took about 4 or 5 plants from there and made a composition from those.

GM – So have you used any of the arrowheads that normally appear in your work?

P – No, there are none here. I use the arrows as a study of the history of Argentina, in particular where my family is from in Misiones, to start to use the events that happened in the area as an exploration of identity. But they have a stronger and more permanent significance, more violent from a certain point of view, harder, that tells another part of the story, a harder side of life, about war, symbolising defence.

GM – Jaz, your figures on this wall have black, faceless animal heads. Is there anything behind these?

J – It’s the same thing as always, to not give them an identity, but at the same time giving them one. For this mural in particular it was more about a herd of animals, but unrecognisable. They’re flat…it’s obviously an animal, but the identity is revealed in other details – the tattoos, clothes, the shoes – all of that is directly from the neighbourhood. I obviously can’t replicate all these things exactly, I don’t know what they mean to those people, but it’s a reference. A tattoo is a mark of belonging, it’s tribal. The identity is shown through those things, the local iconography, but the heads are to strip away the personality, the faces of the people. That’s what they ask me, “Why do they have animal heads?”, that’s where the biggest fear is, “But who are they…??”

P – They’re anonymous

J – Exactly, they’re anonymous, but at the same time they’re not.

GM – What types of animals are they?

J – All kinds. On the first wall, I chose the animals myself, but while I was doing it I had the idea to ask people which animals they wanted. So for the second wall they’ll be animals that people suggested to me…”I want a bear, I want a dog…”. So that, and names of the people down there. All the tattoos, all the clothes, they have names of people from the neighbourhood on them. That’s how they assimilate the mural and make it theirs, and they feel like they’re part of the wall. But at the same time there is none of them in it. So I tried to look for that, to represent the area via these mechanisms, so that they claim the wall as their own. That was the crazy thing, we were there every day, painting, but if we weren’t there to paint, we wouldn’t have stuck around for 10 minutes, no way. It’s a pretty hardcore neighbourhood. But they took us in, they looked after us, they talked to us, they told us their stories, and in that way, you become involved in the situation. And you realise the variety of societies that exist in the same city, you access it in a another way, even with all your huge differences.

P – Another crazy thing is that, beyond both of us working with themes of identity in our art, down there you really became part of that society for a time, which goes beyond the wall. There is a recognition there at the end of it, that you know how things are in that neighbourhood. It’s really dodgy…

J – Yeah, really heavy. The police are there all the time, people are drunk..

P – But at the same time, they’ll offer you something to drink, ask you if you’re hungry, they’ll bring you anything you need…

J – Or they’ll tell you about their brother, their cousin, they’ll show you their scars from prison, tell you why they were in jail…there are situations where you’re like “Whaaaaat???” but at the same time they’re really interesting. Normally you’re not exposed to that.

P – One day when we were painting a guy came up and said “Do you know how many people have wanted to come and mess with you, and we’ve said “Don’t go near the guys who are painting?””

J – They were looking out for us, and for all the people that came down to film, to take photos…keeping us safe cos “They are helping us”

P – “They’re painting for us…”

J – And for someone who’s middle class, who’s an artist, that went to university, to be able to see the way that other people live in places like that, it makes you think, you know? I mean, we’re painting a mural, we’re not changing their lives, but at least it creates a dialogue. I thought it was really fun actually.

P – But if you think about it from another point of view, in this neighbourhood (Villa Crespo), if you see someone, a cartonero or something, he probably has a similar feeling being here as we did being there, but inverted, you know? The individual against the masses. And unfortunately in middle-class or upper middle-class neighbourhoods, the difference between the individual and the unity creates marginalisation.

GM – Pastel, recently in Spain you used the colour palette of the area to inform your pieces. Is there anything here behind the colour that you used?

P – Not here. Jaz had more to do with the colours in this one…

J – In the neighbourhood, there are two football clubs, Barracas Central and Deportivo de Barracas. One has a white and blue jersey and the other white and red. That just started as an idea, it changed as we went along, we started with those colours but expanded to a larger palette. Actually, across the Riachuelo, there’s Independiente and Racing, that use the same colours, so the neighbourhood is really influenced by those teams. Half the people down there are part of the Independiente barra brava and the other half of the Racing barra brava. So they started to notice certain things about the colours…so sometimes that was a bit tricky, how we got around using them…but that was how it started anyway.

GM – So do you think you’ll paint together again?

Both – No, never (laughing)

J – No, I don’t know, I’m leaving again soon and I don’t know when I’ll be back…

P – One day, when we’re old…

J – Or maybe in another country…

Sorcha O’Higgins

jaz-pastel-2

bs.as.stncl

bs.as.stncl is a two person stencil collective comprised of artists NN and GG, a printmaker and graphic designer respectively. bs.as.stncl have a long history of involvement in the Argentine street art scene, and led the first wave of stencil art in the capital’s troubled streets following the 2001 crisis. Formed in 2002, the duo was motivated by the potential for expression and communication using the medium of stencil as an urban intervention.

Despite deliberately leaving their work unsigned, their easily recognizable style has gained a loyal following. Their early work had strong political undertones, created to communicate clear messages to its urban audience. Over time their pieces became less overtly political, and shifted towards a focus on satirizing popular culture, icons and current affairs. The trademarks of their creative backgrounds are evident in their work – the bold use of primary colors and stylized figures combine to create a heavily graphic style.

bs.as.stncl emphasizes the importance of collaboration, insisting that this is what gives street art its incredible power and impact. They celebrate “do-it-yourself” culture, as both a system of organization and in the production and distribution of their work. In 2006 they were two of a group of six artists who launched Hollywood in Cambodia, an artist-run urban art gallery in Buenos Aires.

For more work by bs.as.stncl:
Flickr
Available artworks in UNION Gallery