I was delighted to spend part of the past two days chatting with, photographing and getting to know Guache, one of Colombia and Latin America’s most respected street muralists, as part of a longer story I’m putting together on the street art scene in Bogota. It’s one of the most vibrant on the planet, and Guache is very much at its center.
Its such a joy, almost a rush, to watch mystical birds and proud mythical warriors emerge almost instantly from cans of spray paint, like pre-Incan genies let loose from their bottles.
I was first introduced to his work while exploring central Lima, Peru, just over two years ago, and was immediately hooked. His use and choice of color and design and the dignity and pride his subjects exude is a blend you rarely ever see. It’s one I relish whenever I do. You feel the connection he projects to the past. It’s strong, undeniable.
This week he was leading a community project in Las Cruces, a marginalized barrio less than ten blocks from Colombia’s main seats of power, but a reality that’s an entire world away.
The project involved painting the north-facing wall of the Escuela Antonio Jose Uribe, a school attended by 3,000 children every day. I wrote a little bit more about the setting yesterday; it’s one in which Guache feels very much at home as he works with members of the community to learn about it from them in order to help create what he calls the area’s memorias historica, or historical memories.
Projects of this kind, where he’s working with municipal government agencies, are generally conducted in three phases over a period of 15 to 20 days. In the first, Guache meets with locals to discuss the history of the muralism tradition in Latin America, particularly its social and political aspects. In the second, the group discusses the locality’s history, its architecture and its cultural and culinary traditions. And in the third, he and community members share their sketches and then formulate a plan.