CREATORS AND TEAM
It was the last decade of the 20th century. Colombia seemed closer to the world but further and further away from itself. While the opportunities for young people to be different were scarce, Ecks - just out of his childhood years - discovered a fascination that would mark and transfigure his life. His mother, a seasoned English-Spanish translator, taught him as a child the language that would suddenly allow him to explore an unknown path. Through the covers of rap albums and specialized magazines, which came from the United States, he entered the world of graffiti: a visual, shocking and organic curiosity that would set a creative and obsessive course for him in the years to come.
For the artist, finding himself immersed in the inexorable labyrinth that is graffiti, led him to the unpostponable decision of going out into the streets of Bogota to paint, no matter what the consequences. This would turn him (with time and nights) into a threshold, a place of passage and meeting, for several generations of graffiti artists in the country.
Ecks is a guy of few words and contained gestures. An innate artist, who sublimates completely when a spray can or a turntable (he also turned out to be a skillful D.J.) comes into his hands. The master's restlessness defines and drives him. The city never escapes his gaze and the classic heritage of tags as the original organism of street painting has always marked his creations; whether it's a wild style piece on a Bogotá pipe, one of his graffiti-filled canvases or the precise details of lit wheat on a gigantic mural in the Middle East.
For a little over two decades, Ecks, who has dozens of signatures, stickers and pieces, scattered throughout the city, has witnessed the structural changes in the practice of graffiti in the city of Bogotá. As one of the pioneers of the local street painting movement, he saw the once marginalized practice, persecuted by the police forces and a large part of the citizenry, become the new reputation and tourist heritage of the city. Graffiti is now one of Bogotá's irreplaceable landscapes.
During the last decade and a half, Bogotá has become a random and chaotic scenario where graffiti emerges as a trigger for communication and dialogue among its almost ten million inhabitants. Word, also known as Cazdos, witness and protagonist of this transformation, although he is a master of Fine Arts at the University of the Andes, carried out his preliminary exercises in painting by writing graffiti in Bogotá. As a teenager, he learned first-hand from his colleagues Ecks and Yurika, to read, move around and transform the city by inscribing the signature of his pseudonym, in a frenetic way, in the street. Bogota all day long. And all night.
Word has devoted himself fully to the closed investigation of graffiti as an elusive and fickle phenomenon in the city. As a researcher, he has developed virtual and physical spaces of diffusion like the now extinct -but relevant- graffiti magazine Objetivo Fanzine. His taste for research has also been evident in several academic investigations, group exhibitions and curatorial projects, which deal with the tensions present between art and the city.
Word is a specialist in weaving the seams that link urban history with the plastic arts. His work has focused on developing issues that question the uses of public space; the tensions of human relations in the city and; graffiti, as a performatic action. The practice of street art has served as a prosthesis for this artist to embody multiple dialogues, exercises and mappings in public space that have been reflected in murals, both in depressed areas of Colombia such as the Orquídeas de Agua Blanca neighborhood in southwestern Colombia, as well as in the pyrotechnic and spectacular sector of Wynwood in the city of Miami.
For the artist, the fragile, transitory and ephemeral exercises learned in the street have been important inputs as orientation and motive for most of his personal studio work, where he works on painting, drawing and in-situ installations. In his serial painting exercises such as Frontiers and Borders 2, he explores inflexible steel as a rigid support that negotiates its static nature when it comes into contact with abstract painting: conceiving scenarios of dressed up tides, afternoons or savannah dawns, which in any case seek to capture the momentary fragility of light, as well as human traces in the city (instantaneous monuments unobserved by most).
Cazdos is a creator who interprets reality without the excuse of trying to find answers: the most powerful -and fertile- maxim of human contemplation.
The inevitable responsibility of an artist is to build bridges between two worlds that remain -inexplicably- separate. As a teenager in the harsh Bogotá of the 1990s, Yurika found refuge in the crude and forceful sounds of hardcore. At the end of every concert or party, he would return home and observe with curiosity and interest the intermittent presence of graffiti that emulated the Wild Style (incubated decades ago on the North American east coast). His wild and provocative nature, which he witnessed, became inevitable. It only took a couple of months for the artist's lines -on the eve- to start appearing all over the city. After prowling around for years with different sounds and music, a surprising return to his taste and fondness for native Colombian rhythms made possible the unexpected encounter that would henceforth mark his career: cumbia and graffiti.
Cumbia, the extraordinary musical genre that comprises and amalgamates the ancestral rhythms that cross the Colombian Caribbean region (child of the cultural intersections brought about by the discovery, conquest and colonization of America) with its vibrant percussions and anecdotes converted into verse, became for Yurika a cartography that would determine her pictorial work; a personal and intimate drift that the artist has called "Cumbigenismo".
Perhaps it was his decision to paint a María Mulata (a mythological bird punished in its colorfulness by its vanity) in the historical epicenter of Cartagena in 2013, which awakened that need to understand the artistic exercise from the rhythms of cumbias and the mestizo roots of Colombia. As an omen, he dedicated this mural creation, which blends with the colonial architecture of the city, to his newborn daughter: Cielo Celeste. The image of the fantastic bird would become a place of pilgrimage for all those who were attracted by the vertiginousness of the color and the forms in the work. The mural, with its lighted feathers and eager flight, seems to sow a colourful jaggedness in the disturbing conservative tale of a legendary city that has denied for centuries the mixed womb in which it was born: the African and the Indigenous.
Yurika is a mestizo and for that reason his deliberate disrespect for unitary and common forms, the fierceness of his proposal is even noticeable in his way of dressing: shirts, embroidered skirts and baggy basketball shoes stained with paint, consecrate his decision to be himself. No exceptions. This mise en scène is also reflected in his style of painting, full of strokes, gestures and superimposed colours, where his call to exuberance and rhythm are evident: startled horizons that confuse and intrigue the eye.
In the middle of the 2019 Christmas season, Yurika would reach an inspiring achievement for her career and her professional proposal, painting a mural of more than eighteen floors in Sao Paulo, Brazil: the image of a slender colorful “Gaitero” that whispers life to the cumbia he plays, discovering with cunning the musical legacies and graffiti representations that the artist claims in his works. Life as a rhythmic event and painting as an insinuation that seduces; a fixed dance that comprises a movement detained in the memory.
Under the blue sky of Marseille, the Mediterranean city where she has lived for the past five years, Zas remembers the sunny Sundays in Bogota. Those days when all the conditions were right to go out and write her name together with Yurika, Cazdos and Ecks, the friends with whom he has shared his three-letter surname for more than a decade: MDC.
Fascinated, like them, by the possibilities of style in writing, she gave herself to the succession of signatures and pieces that were the trophy of her adventures.
During these days, Zas was consolidating her preference for the wilder side of graffiti. Affiliated to the romantic idea of clandestinity and anonymity, for years she recognized the street as the main originator and sustenance of her creations. A short walk through the center of Bogota is enough to find signatures and pieces of Zas that resist disappearing. However, her time at the National University, and her decision to study Fine Arts in France, transformed her approach to graffiti, encouraging its exploration in other forms and aesthetics.
Today, Zas's graffiti pieces continue to appear without warning, and the street remains his most precious place of creation. However, her exercises and bets have gone beyond the canons and dimensions of writing graffiti. Her participation in the famous mural of El Beso de Los Invisibles, and other projects by the Vertigo Graffiti collective, have been an opportunity to explore new elements, details and stories, which comprise the imaginary of the artist in constant reinvention.
Sixteen years after her first graffiti, it would be a mistake to think that Zas' spirits have calmed down or that her imperative personality has ceased to be manifest. Although the days of conquering the streets of Bogota are behind her, it is the sincerity she inherited from the practice of graffiti, the primordial feeling that commands each of her creative actions.
In 1999, the streets of Barcelona began their early morning hours with smiling, round-eyed fish appearing on walls, shop curtains, and fences. In the company of his friends, Pez would go out to paint the city that would become -over the years- the cradle of several internationally renowned artists. Undoubtedly the young generous Catalan with a ponytail, would have a place of honour in this generation of creators incubated in the ramblas and narrow streets of the city capital.
As the years went by, Pez's fish would appear all over the world and his happy style, his most promising creation, would be increasingly recognized; whether at an exhibition of his works in Japan, at a "mapping" in Wynwood or in the industrial zone of Bogota. Although his works have reached an infinite number of latitudes, it cannot be overlooked that Pez's heart is divided between his native Catalonia and the intense Bogota where he lives with his family a little more than six months a year. Pez comes and goes around the world, something that no longer seems to surprise him and has become his most agitated reality. At the moment he is preparing a personal exhibition in the United States and last year he celebrated 20 years of his career with his famous friends of urban art in a prestigious gallery in London.
Pez's prolific work has a deep and relevant message. Apart from the delicacy of its lines and finishes and the versatility of its fish, which have even decorated the bow of a ship in the Caribbean, Pez seems to raise his voice to a reality that rewards wisdom about the happiness of men and darkness about the color in the streets. Fortunately, there are still many smiles for the Catalan, much colour, and many friends. Perhaps these, his most precious treasure, apart from his wife and two children.
photographer and editor
The blisters were throbbing in his back. The angry sun of Taganga Bay had been hurting the young photographer's skin for a couple of days. Squatting, and not letting go of his Nikon D300s, he framed Ecks as he drew a line on the boat, docked in the middle of the beach. That night, he couldn't sleep, the pain from the burns kept him awake. He turned on his camera, checked the footage and picked out the best pictures. The next morning, in the early hours of the morning, he was supposed to leave for a beach in Tayrona Park, where he would take pictures of a couple of models for Doce Nueve; a brand of Vertigo graffiti bikinis that never took off.
Vertigo's story has been lucky enough to have a camera ready to freeze an action or reveal an artist's gesture - while he is immersed in his creation. That perspective, from the delicacy and commitment, has corresponded, not infrequently, to the talented Nicolás, the person in charge of documenting the team's descents and ascents; he was responsible for the first Vertigo videos for the Sprite brand, the night photo of Prisma Afro (the team's first large-format mural) and the portraits of the Aguablanca grandmothers that were printed to watch over the young people at risk of dying from violence.
Today, without the passing of the years having undermined his will, he is in charge of filming and editing the documentaries of the Siamese project of Vertigo Graffiti: the audiovisual production company Los Amateurs. Surely, there are many stories to be told through Nico's careful look: the brave photographer with the blisters on his back. The visual memory of this racket.