New Year, new mural festival!
Truthfully, the appearance of new mural festivals today is faster than annual -- it's more like quarterly -- but this one in the Dominican Republic was inaugurated three weeks ago and brings a certain hand crafted authenticity that holds promise for its future.
"ArteSano Project" gives you an indication of the personal nature of the art you are likely to see from the 25 local and international artists invited to Rio San Juan from December 11-22. It could be the name influencing our perception, but in one way or another it looks like these artists are chosen for their down-to-earth hand hewn approach. Sometimes decorative, sometimes storytelling, there are familiar themes and motifs that play well to their local audience as well as the virtual gawker.
Even with two dozen artists, it isn't bloated: no logos or product tie-ins or DJs or high flying scissor lifts scaling massive multi-story walls with abstract surrealism, hyper photo-realism or dark pop human/animal/robot hybrids here - yet. Well, we take that back on the surrealism score; Pixel Pancho is here with a brood of chickens bobbing their industrial mesh necks atop fired tile bodices, hunting and pecking their way toward the beach, and Miami artist duo 2alas & Hox created a portrait of a boy with a partial mask overlay that calls to mind cyborgs (and Sten & Lex). But here in the loungey bare-foot tropical DR coastal area, even Pixel Pancho mutes the hues toward sun-bleached pastels, more easily complimenting their surroundings.
Free-running fowl overtook a few artists thematically, including another international artist who usually paints hybrid forms with dimension and almost mythic metaphor, but who this time tried his hand at something much more folkloric. "Importacion Cultural", the flatly bright piece by Buenos Aires born Franco "Jaz" Fasoli, presents an entire wall with hand cut and paper collage, adding to the general feeling of approachability, and introducing a form of craft-inspired art-making more common to DIY Street Art of the 2000s than recent aerosol-infused mural festivals.
"The community was transformed during those days and over two weeks they began to see these great artists' work and create specific pieces in different places around the town," says Mario E. Ramirez, a Puerto Rican artist who has been documenting and capturing the burgeoning graffiti/Street Art scene in his country and places like DR with his partners at Tost Films. He says that an event like this that connects with a community yields a greater dialogue than some of the more commercial Street Art and graffiti enterprises, because the artists get to interact with neighbors closely. "At the completion of the ArteSano each artist felt like a distinguished guest of Rio San Juan. They made us feel at home, it was one of the best experiences of 2014."
One of the organizers, Dominican born artist Evoca1, has experience working as a Street Artist as well as bringing actual physical sustenance and support to a community. For about four years the Miami based artist has delivered many meals to folks living on the street with his wife and friends through an organization he began called "Sketches For Mankind."
With Evoca1 hosting the ArteSano project it became another form of community outreach and the curatorial responsibilities for the public art initiative was offered by the folks at the Vienna based INOPERAbLE Gallery, who have represented a mix of urban artists work including some in this show and others that are range into pop, dark pop, graphic irony, and more "traditional" contemporary Street Art.
Organizers say they hope that ArteSano gains traction and that people get to know the Dominican Republic as a good place for urban arts and muralism. There is not much transgressive here; With its mix of mainly latin name-brand and local homegrown talent, it looks like ArteSano makes a respectable entry into the international mural festival mileu with what may be the emerging alchemy of the decorative and the pleasing - peppered with some more challenging themes and muted socio-political messages.
Overall no one will argue that Rio San Juan is a great location for a painter or street artist from the northern hemisphere in December. Among the invited artists were BIKISMO, JADE, 2ALAS, HOXXOH, PASTEL, JAZ, EVER, ELIAN, LEO, VERO RIVERA, MODAFOCA, ENTES, FAITH47, AXEL VOID, PIXEL PANCHO, FILIO, ANGURRIA, 3TAMAROOTS, GABZ, POTELECHE, BAD6, SHAK, RUBEN, JOHANN,SEBAS, and PAOLA.
Thank you to Mario E Ramirez for his invaluable help to make this article possible for BSA readers.
This article is also posted on Brooklyn Street Art.
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