Arts & Entertainment

New book captures Colombia’s vibrant urban art scene

By Juan Carlos Gomi

Bogota, Dec 11 (efe-epa).- Freedom, color, diversity and abundance. Those are the defining traits of Colombia’s dynamic urban art scene, which is being celebrated in the pages of a newly published book.

Titled “Que no le falte calle,” it highlights the work of more than 150 graffiti artists nationwide.

“There’s a large amount of artists of high quality. We’ve compiled 150 in this encyclopedia, but there are many more. All of them regard graffiti as a form of expression and way of life,” said Andres Quintero, creator of the BogotArt project, the collective behind this initiative.

This voluminous book celebrates the most significant works Colombian graffiti artists have produced over the past 15 years, both on the streets of the Andean nation and in other parts of the world, its promoters say.

It also gathers the thoughts and reflections of leading practitioners of this art form, including DjLu, Zokos, Guache, Wosnan and Yurika.

Showcasing a variety of techniques, the selected works tackle themes ranging from the ancestral and the magical to the plight of the country’s indigenous people and the killings of social leaders.

The selected works also include tributes to popular culture, nature scenes and depictions of farm workers’ protests and street portraits.

“Colombia’s urban art is very special. It’s had an impact throughout Latin America. Since 2016, the country has been exporting graffiti artists all over the world. Let’s say that it’s now – and especially Bogota – the graffiti mecca for the entire region,” Mar Rodriguez, the cultural collective’s producer, said.

Antonio Merino, another of the project’s creators, agreed that Colombian street art is experiencing a boom.

“I decided to start with Colombia because, in the words of Stinkfish – a renowned South American graffiti artist – an image is only graffiti if it meets three (conditions): independence, illegality and anonymity. Combine that with the color and joyful rhythm of cumbia, there was no doubt that was the country I should start with,” he said.

In conjunction with the book’s launch, BogotArt and its partner companies installed a temporary exhibition at a floor under construction inside Torre Barcelona, a building in downtown Bogota.

That exhibit features works by artists that appear in the book, as well as a selection of photos submitted as part of the #QueNoLeFalteCalle campaign, through which more than 4,000 people were able to display their images over a period of two weeks.

“Torre Barcelona is a building that functions as a hostel and student residence hall,” Rodriguez said. “We found a floor there that wasn’t being used and under construction and transformed it into an exhibition. We had artist interventions set up on the walls, photographs … it’s a very urban experience, very street-like.”

The exhibit is a particularly welcome space for graffiti artists after the coronavirus-triggered lockdowns forced the closure of alternative art galleries, Quintero said.

“The artists had to stop at the onset (of the crisis) … Now they’re back in action on the street,” he added.

The enthusiasm was so great that some artists created a new work during the exhibit even though it will have to shut down on Dec. 19, when the floor housing it will close its doors and these graffiti artists will resume their transient lifestyles.

“Que no le falte calle,” however, can serve a vital purpose in terms of keeping street art in the public eye, creating a permanent printed record of what is happening – and being said – on street walls and showcasing this new cultural heritage, its promoters say.

This latest book is not the first BogotArt initiative in the publishing world.

“Three years ago, we published ‘Mas que muros,’ which featured the work of Bogota’s artists. Now we decided to expand and realized there’s a graffiti movement throughout Colombia that was worth showcasing,” Rodriguez said. EFE-EPA

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