The richness of street art

Gualicho. Jorge Newbery and Zapiola

Run-down walls, abandoned buildings, degraded public areas. Where most see only dirt and decay, urban artists find a perfect canvas. In Buenos Aires street art started in the 90s under the influence of some visiting foreign artists. They worked side by side with Argentines and Chileans who had learned the art of graffiti in Europe or the States. The areas mostly intervened by streets artists are Saavedra, Belgrano, Palermo, Colegiales, Barracas and San Telmo. At the beginning paintings were done in a rush and at night. But in 2004 arrived The London Police, a group of British artists who encouraged local graffiteros to take the streets more seriously. Buenos Aires street artists sign as Caru, Crayfish, Parbo, Gualicho, Teko, Pum-Pum and Jaz, to name a few. Jaz is one of the leading local figures.

Parbo and The London Police. Matienzo and Zapiola

In 2006 Federico Minuchin, from Run Don't Walk, along with BA Stencils and Malatesta, founded the only art gallery which shows street art, Hollywood in Cambodia, housed in a bar at 1800 Thames St. in Palermo. But graffiti is not an indoors experience. In Jaz's words: Graffiti belongs to the streets and to the streets alone. That's where it was born and that's where it should stay.

Filete porteño. Zelaya St.

Buenos Aires new urban art shows the influence of the filete porteño, a local style of graffiti first developed by Italian immigrants. Much of Jaz's graffiti is rooted in Buenos Aires filete style.
Graffiti Argentina - Libro de Graffiti Argentino
Jaz. Front cover of Graffiti Argentina by Maximiliano Ruiz

Until 1975, when an absurd law forbade it, city buses were profusely decorated with filete patterns.

Filete porteño: Photo from http://www.taringa.net/posts/arte/2463440/Fileteado-porteño:-historia,-técnicas,-descargas-y- videos

Like the traditional filete, graffiti chooses clean lines, geometrical figures and bright colours; it also uses other surfaces apart from walls. Graffiteros have left ingenious expressions of their art on train and metro carriages. Below is a masterly piece by Zekis, one of the first Chilean street artists, now painting as Cekis in NYC. The figure of a recumbernt woman was sprayed one night between 3am and 5am, in Buenos Aires, in 2002.

Zekis. Photo from Rodney Palmer's review of Graffiti Argentina

You can't walk around San Telmo or Barracas without running into one of Grolou's paintings. Grolou is Louis Danjou, a young French artist who lives part-time in San Telmo.

Grolou. 1000 Chacabuco St.

We are different groups - Danjou explains to La Vereda magazine, # 8 - each paints strange things, with no style. We have nothing in common with the current graffiti of, let's say, the USA or other movements. In Europe graffiti belongs to the Hip Hop movement; it's more compact and they use mostly letters.

Graffiteros sometimes work alone and sometimes in a group. Each painter does as he pleases, there are no rules. The materials for graffiti include white latex, colours to mix and Montana Color, a spray especially made for graffiti in Catalonia. Most paint for fun but for some it's also a way of making a living as paint manufacturers often sponsor artists.
Local graffiti has been criticized as having no message. The question is whether an original work, beautifully executed can ever be devoid of meaning. What is undeniable is that street art breaks the rules of the art market. It cannot be bought. It's there for everyone to see, free of charge.

Join the graffiti gallery by sending photos of your favourite graffiti (local or foreign) to argentinechronicles@gmail.com.

Interesting pages on Graffiti:
Graffiti y stencils
Book on Argentine graffiti
Argentine graffiti facebook
Lucas Lasnier aka Parbo
Louis Danjou aka Grolou

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