When my friend Jaime Rojo of Brooklyn Street Art heard that I was going to the Mexican city of Oaxaca for vacation, one of the first suggestions that he made to me was to look up the street art collective Lapiztola. Prior to our conversation, I had never thought of Oaxaca as having much in the way of street art, but thinking more about it, it makes a lot of sense. Oaxaca is a state know to revere its native cultures and crafts, has produced many notable contemporary painters, and it’s history of political unrest and protest has made for a fertile street art environment .
In fact, the Lapiztola collective formed during a political uprising that took place in Oaxaca during a seven month period of time in 2006. It began with teachers’ strikes and extended into a wider revolt and open confrontation with the Mexican state in protest of political corruption and acts of repression. Lapiztola, the name itself a telling play on the Spanish word lapiz (pencil) and pistola (pistol), took action to support the people’s movement by bringing their politically charged art to the streets. In a great interview with Jeffrey Pena of Curbs and Stoops, the collective talks more about the influence of the uprising and of the government in general on their art work.
Two members of the collective, Roberto & Rosario, were kind enough to meet up with me while I was in Oaxaca to discuss street art, graffiti and politics over a couple of beers and to give me a tour of their studio. The work of Lapiztola typically combines more graphic, repetitive elements in the form of silk screening with a stencil overlay used to illustrate more immediate elements. Their work appears to frequently explore themes of freedom and captivity, innocence and violence, and the power of the individual vs the government, all with a reverence for Mexican culture and heritage. Sometimes the meaning behind a piece of work may be more subtle than it is at other times, but the images are always strong & powerful.
And though we have not seen much of their work here in New York, they have maintained a very busy schedule participating in shows around Mexico, South America, and Europe. Hopefully in the near future we will have a chance to welcome them here! Until then, if you are interested in buying artwork from Lapiztola, I found several prints available on the Just Seeds website, reasonably priced at $50 each. To see more of their work, check out the Lapiztola blog.