Maybe the last thing you would expect to see when walking into a street art gallery in Buenos Aires is Eddie Murphy. Or not. Who knows what you’re supposed to expect in these kinds of places. Either way, yellow and blue spray-painted cut outs of Detective Alex Foley from Beverly Hills Cop await you at Cartoonneros’ exhibition this month at Palermo’s Hollywood in Cambodia.
There’s a play on words that justifies Murphy’s face plastered on the entrance of the showroom. No long explanation or translation needed: “Sometimes you have to do stuff just because it makes you feel good”. Cartoonneros is a graffiti artist and a psychoanalyst, possibly the most Buenos Aires career combo ever. He has the authority to validate Eddie Murphy as an art therapy tool and he did exactly that. #aguantetodo.
Increasingly active on the street art scene lately, Cartoonneros started as a passionate observer of the Argentine stencil movement during its inception. The fine arts student arrived to Buenos Aires from Ushuaia in 2000, just in time to see the graffiti come up on the walls as the mask of Argentina’s troubled economy that was in free-fall. “Poverty and protest were growing at the same rate. The massive graffiti movement of the crisis was in sync with the appearance of cartoneros (the informal workers who separate out recycling from street rubbish containers). It was what was happening out on the streets. That’s when the idea of Cartoonneros was born. It would become my way of making the invisible visible”. And so his style emerged from the combination of “cartoneros,” the designation for informal urban recyclers who work virtually unnoticed on the street and “cartoon”, the comic strip style of illustration.
A decade and a psychology degree later, Cartoonneros started stenciling. “I liked the language from the very start, I found it fresh, it spoke to my generation and it was free”, he remembers. Today, on top of spontaneous painting in Buenos Aires, he uses art with his patients, “especially the smaller ones. It’s not about what they draw, it’s what they manifest through it.” He regularly leads stencil workshops in different public hospitals, namely at the Garrahan Children’s Hospital and the Alvear Mental Hospital, “to help patients express what they can’t say with words.”
So what does Cartoonneros’s work express? We asked the psychoanalyst to analyze his own art.
“Some of my stuff is openly critical. When I work on top of a Marcelo Tinelli billboard and paint a discount tag on the women’s heads in his ad, I want to generate a reflection on how women are objectified in the sad social stuffing that his TV show is along with all it represents. When I stencil a sign with “Art is a weapon of mass construction”, I’m hoping to raise an eyebrow, to create an impact on someone who might have glimpsed out of the bus window right there and caused that person to smile.”
What about the life-sized Kurt Cobain with a leopard print jacket, pin up sunglasses and floppy-eared hat?
I like Kurt.
To catch a glimpse of glamorously grunge Kurt, pop art Frida or Seu Jorge, Bill Murray, Julio Cortazar, Serge Gainsbourg or Batman and Robin making out, head to Cartoonneros’ show “Un Cartoonneros suelto en Hollywood” in Hollywood in Cambodia until July 21.
Hollywood in Cambodia, Thames 1885, is the first street art gallery of Argentina and the only one that is artist-run. It’s very conveniently located at the back of graffiti-clad Post Street Bar so you can take in the art while downing a beer, por amor al arte.
“Un Cartoonneros suelto en Hollywood” stencil exhibition by Cartoonneros
Hollywood in Cambodia a street art gallery that operates out of Post Street Bar
Thames 1885 | Palermo Soho
Tuesday to Sunday from 5:30 pm to 9 pm | Running until July 21