- By Alsace Patrone
Buenos Aires can easily be defined as one of the world's meccas for street artists. To paint in the city an artist must only acquire verbal permission from the owner of a wall, or in the case of an abandoned building, no permission is needed at all. It is in this culture of relative legality that the innovation and global nature of graffiti in the city has evolved, making Buenos Aires one of the foremost destinations on the planet to paint. In many barrios in the city, this appreciation of graffiti has evolved into a sort of competition between neighbors, with many outer-facing walls of houses donning the signature sprays of artists, as a reaction to the blossoming of street art in their neighborhood.
Street art has been an inherent component of Argentine culture long before the global trend of painting arrived in the city, in the early 1980s, as the world began to source New York's "Wild Style" movement.
Street art has been an inherent component of Argentine culture long before the global trend of painting arrived in the city, in the early 1980s, as the world began to source New York's "Wild Style" movement. Instead, Buenos Aires has been rooted in this style of art for decades, where it has become essential to Argentine politics and national identity. Public art and its prominence are essential components in the ever-changing political core of the nation, serving as a medium through which to instigate change. For example, through familiar repetition of simplistic iconography, scars on the collective memory and social structure of Argentina are never allowed to fade from the national socio-cultural memory. Political action against dictatorships and the disappearing of Argentine citizens are given a perpetual platform through street art. This is evidenced by the ever-present sprays of white handkerchiefs worn by the Mothers and Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo, women who walk the city's central plaza each week demanding continued justice, commemoration, and struggle for human rights in the names of their loved ones who were disappeared, killed, or stolen and re-appropriated to other families as infants. Similarly, a common practice in Argentina, originating in the 1950s, is the quick overnight spray-up for political candidates. Due to the acceptance of street art and its sheer coverage, it made for an excellent source of political advertisement. It became a grass-roots way of publicizing one's campaign, with the quick identification strategies of recognizable color schemas. Overnight men in vans drive up to the empty walls of the city, quickly outline the bubble lettering of a candidate’s name and fill it in; leaving almost as quickly as they had arrived: a true feat of art standardization. In a politically heightened time such as the elections of November and December 2015, spray-ups such as these were painted up constantly, with their remnants still widely visible throughout the city today.
Graffiti in the city comes in every style, from every nationality, and with every charge and statement.
Graffiti has become essential to Argentina's capital. It matches Buenos Aires' spectacularly contradictory nature. The city can be drab with multi-storied patio-ed buildings greying from age or dirt, but yet grandiose, fashioned in the elegant style of European colonial architecture and palazzos; for which it is deemed the “Paris of South America.” Graffiti in the city comes in every style, from every nationality, and with every charge and statement. It gives Buenos Aires an additional element of architectural complexity, shaping the dialogue of the nation’s culture around politics, memory and art itself. This ability is unlike any other metropolitan area, and has come to define the rich urban culture, and ultimately, the city’s spirit.
All of the images were taken by Alsace Patrone in Buenos Aires. No reproductions allowed. For captions, please contact a member of GAD's team.