Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Printmaking on the Streets of Guatemala!

On a recent visit to Guatemala City, I came across something quite unexpected - printmaking as public art! While walking along 6th Street, which is like Chicago's shopping district State Street, I found a number of etchings like the one above, that had been printed,  blown up to billboard size, and plastered onto empty niches on old boarded up storefronts. The resolution of the prints was so clear and so good, I had to go up and touch them to be sure they weren't real printed surfaces. Unfortunately, the artist's name wasn't a part of the billboard, so I cannot give credit to him or her, but I thought they were notably good works to give a shout here on That's Inked Up
I enjoyed seeing these pieces in such a public setting, along with the normal amount of graffiti and nightclub posters adorning the storefronts and street corners. It says a lot about the city that it appreciates local talent to show these prints on such a large scale. (There was also a temporary display of large scale photographs showing cultural diversity being put up on the street.) Try as a might, I could not find out who did them, but for a city more known for it's obvious Mayan heritage and cultural activities which lean more toward crafts, music and dance, it was refreshing to see these works. The print below shows the actual size of the original print in the lower left corner of the picture and how it translates on a larger scale. These translations of a large scale print were not exactly in keeping with the tradition of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's advertisement of Moulin Rouge lithograph posters, but the drawing element is apparent and the prints translate the artist's love of drawing very clearly.

The local art scene in Guatemala City is tight nit. Contemporary artists have more of an audience in the neighboring tourist city of Antigua, but there are a fair number of public work sculptures - varying from the abstract, to Mayan-influenced, cougars and bulls(like the Cows on Parade in Chicago), and even a scaled down version of the Eiffel Tower

Normally the artwork  found in Guatemala City is more aligned to politics, given their recent history. There are whole walls and the sidewalks covered with xeroxed pictures of the "Missing", thousands of people who were taken by the military and never seen again. Vital documentation on several thousand of them (including pictures taken of the victims at the time of their internment) were recently uncovered in the National Archives, and a documentary about the subject was brought to light in international film festivals last year. 

If you have occasion to visit this bright, colorful and densely populated city, you will surely find all manner of  activities to engage the senses, but the arts are alive and well in Guatemala, and I was pleased to find printmaking a prominent part of it. 

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