By John Keeble
An exhibition of urban art is running in the Alliance Francaise’s Paul Cézanne Gallery — reflecting the changing way that street artists are adding to the beauty of Cuenca and drawing attention to an issue centering on artists and art content. The show is part of the Alliance’s 4th Annual Festival de Culturas Urbanas, which continues through October 2.
All the exhibits are from artists who paint, for fun or paid commissions, on the walls of the city. Their exhibited works, however, were designs suitable for homes and businesses. Seven sold on the opening evening and one artist was commissioned to paint a mural for a business.
“I wanted to draw attention to this art,” said Paul Marquis, who curated the exhibition in cooperation with Alliance Française. “The public does not always appreciate the art or the talent [that produces the art].”
The exhibition includes a new form of urban art that arose during the Covid pandemic. When artists were unable to leave their homes because of lockdowns, they started producing art which could be fixed later to city walls. This new type of street art is being called pegatina, Spanish for “sticker”. It is expected to continue, even though the lockdowns have ended and the artists can get out to paint murals.
Putting together the show emphasised the machismo nature of street art, said Marquis. Although there are about 12 street art crews and another dozen or more individual street artists, none is female or openly gay. Only one female, the girlfriend of one of the street artists, submitted a work for the exhibition but, after discussion, it was not shown because it was too far outside the established genres.
However, the discussion has stimulated the possibility of female and openly gay people being encouraged to add their talents and artistic perceptions to Cuenca’s street art.
“Originally, the name of the exhibition was Democracy of Urban Art,” said Marquis. “We changed it because we realised that urban art was not democratic. There are no women [involved].”
About 35 people attended an invitation-only first evening of the exhibition, Los Poetas del Concreto, which runs to the end of October. They included artists Daniel Williams (who also has an exhibition at IdiomArt until October 2), Topher Man and Esteban Vasquez as well as others interested in art.
Cuenca expats René and George Fedyna were among the invited guests – and immediately bought one of the works for $250.
“We fell in love with Mandril Comic by Esteban Vasquez as soon as we saw it,” said René, a local author. “George has always been a comic book collector and this piece drew us in with its sophisticated technique, layers of color and sense of humor.
“We had a surprise later when Esteban met us at the gallery. We watched him carefully package the art piece and were amazed to see the box he placed it in had another work of art on the front. We’re going to frame the box cover and hang it as well. Two great pieces! Actually, there are three pieces as he included a comic drawing explaining his concept and signed a certificate of authenticity.
“We’re thrilled we attended and thank Alliance Francais and all who put the exhibition together. We love going to art shows and missed seeing them during the pandemic. This is the first exhibition we’ve been to since the pandemic and what a wonderful way to start!”