It’s not surprising that in a continent that has such a long-standing and strong heritage of cartooning as South America there is also a thriving street art scene.
The drawing skills, sense of satire and comedy, and just the plain desire to challenge authority seen in the animation industry seems perfectly transferable to graffiti, which has been used in the continent to cheaply and quickly express feelings about everything from military dictatorships to football.
New book Nuevo Mundo: Latin American Street Art, which is published by Gestalten this month, documents the key practitioners of the art form, separated into country or region. The title translates as ’New World’, and appropriately the book attempts to outline how the Latin American street art scene differs from ’old world’ Europe, and how it reflects – and shapes – the continent’s visual identity.
The book’s editor Maximilano Ruiz says, ‘Street art has always been a very important weapon in every social and political event or revolution in Latin America, either as a too to reclaim an urban culture of tribe, or as a strong and powerful means for airing political and social grievances.’
Ruiz argues that the growth of street art also has a connection to the tolerance of local people to the art form, the relaxed attitude of police to graffiti, and the warm climate that is kind to the preservation of outdoor art.
Ruiz says, ‘However, not all forms of street art are equally appreciated. “Pixacao” for example, a form of tagging native to Brazil, consisting of large hand-painted letters and made by hundreds of gangs has covered countless buildings, wall and cities and is considered by many Brazilians to be a virus or disease that destroys the image of their country.’
The book contains spreads dedicated to the cute animals of San Paolo-based Onesto, the graphic surreal figures of Medo, and the angular mythical beasts by Vitchi – all of which are heavily focused around character design.
Ruiz says, ‘The artists’ large indigenous and folk influences also form one of their most important ingredients. The incorporation of different cultures into their art – be it through the use of icons, traditions, dances, and costumes or indigenous painting styles and various techniques of prints and graphics – is unique in the creation of cultural identity.’
Nuevo Mundo: Latin American Street Art, edited by Maximiliano Ruiz, is published by Gestalten, priced at £32.50.