Stencil Art & Activism

graffitimundo

Stencil art is ubiquitous in street art these days, but in Buenos Aires the technique has political roots that run deep.  With the economic crisis of 2001 came an explosion of stencil art.  A technique that had been used for promotion and activism for the better part of a century was subverted by artists who concocted a potent blend of surreal imagery and scathing social commentary.
graffitimundo, 2013

Stencils have been used as a method of communication in the streets of Buenos Aires since the 1920s. A long established tool of activism and propaganda, in the last decade stencil art has flourished as artists have reclaimed this time honoured technique of painting the city walls.

This piece by bs.as.stncl can be found throughout the city, and demonstrates the power of a stencil to representing and misrepresenting popular icons. 

Initially adopted as a simple and effective means of mass producing a simple image or slogan across the city, over time stencil art has become more complex, elaborate and powerful. This piece by Nazza is painted in the grounds of a former clandestine torture centre. The child pictured holds up a photo of one of the disappeared. His t-shirt bears another iconic stencil, a demand for justice and punishment.

Three months after the death of former president Nestor Kirchner, hundreds of these stencils appeared across the city. The image is combination of two images – the face of former President Nestor Kirchner, wearing the suit of the classic Argentine comic hero “El Eternauta“, a fictional character who struggled against malevolent forces in an apocalyptic vision of Buenos Aires. The stencil is a tribute to Kirchner's role as a leader who brought Argentina out of crisis. 

The ominous spectre in the doorway is a "piquetero", an immediately recognisable figure representing a disruptive form of protest. After returning from Buenos Aires after a long journey, the artist found the motorway to the city blocked by a protest. The "I love BA" badge hints at the love/hate relationship people have with the city.  

Placement is everything. The block colour letters are typical of a style of propaganda seen throughout the country, promoting everyone from union leaders and football teams to the president and city mayor. The addition of the boy with the brush gazing dreamily into the distance changes the impact of the ever changing propaganda painted below. 

This stencil from the province of La Matanza references a "piquete" (human roadblock) that lasted several days at this location, blocking access to the city along a key route. Several people died during the disturbance, but not before it gained widespread media coverage. 

A simple way to subvert expectations is to use a technique in an unexpected way. Stencils are often used in direct and simple forms of visual communication. Artists such as rundontwalk use stencils to bring a touch of surrealism to the city walls. 

"Your trash is my treasure". Many people make a living hand sorting rubbish in search of recyclable material to sell. This piece was painted on the wall of a recycling cooperative. 

This huge and intricate piece captures the eyes bouffant hair of La Mona Jimenez (a popular singer), the nose of General Juan Perón, and Janet Leigh's famous scream from Psycho.  

Credits: Story

Curator — graffitimundo

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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