The art of aerosolgrafia

Gerardo Amor, Spray Paint Art Originator

By Angel Rodrigues Zepeda translated from 'the Meridiano' Monday April 3 2000

One of the activities that calls our attention among the tourists that walk up and down the malecon is the work that 6 young artists of intellectual appearance do in the late afternoon they take over a part of the open air theater Aquiles Serdan (the arches) , to use their ingenuity to make the most colorful and beautiful scenes with the technique of aerosolgrafia acrilica, using spray paint cans, before an audience of hundreds of persons, mainly tourists that pass that way.

These paintings are done in a period of 12 minutes maximum and they are worth 250 pesos for the larger ones because there are other smaller ones that cost 40 pesos,  and there is great demand , that is to say, that this technique is one of the most loved of the city, the traveling art which earns the most for it's practitioners.

We spoke with these people to know a little bit about the origins of this art form..

Where is this technique from?

--From Mexico city, we began to paint approximately 15 years ago --Gerardo Amor explains; and  Jose Luis Cuevas mentored us in the Libreria Ghandi in Mexico City, there were art critics such as Raquel Tivol and others.  In Coyoacan, Ruben Sadot, Mexican, had the idea to paint this technique and he made history. He investigated if this technique had been done before, and yes, but with a different type of airbrush , Chinese people many years ago used air, but spray paint is modern, it's acrylic enamel.

Based on this we made an association in Mexico City. We were about 10 people at the beginning.  Ruben Sadot died, but those of us who knew him have enriched the technique, in the beginning it was not like this. We have evolved it and it is still evolving.  The origin of this technique is Mexican, because some people in the US and other places have learned from us and have said that this technique is theirs. We have made pamphlets of information and we are writing a book, but it is a lot of work to collect the information about the origin of the technique, it is a Mexican technique even though some foreigners are saying that they have been painting more time. It's not true, the first time that this was done is in Mexico City, 15 years ago.

Is it special paper that you use?

Any paper, you can paint on canvas, also prepared cloth, murals, you can do anything really, as long as it's smooth there is no problem, you can add texture later, which is different.

What is the role of music in your work?

We like to put prehispanic music because we are painting for tourists and we want them to take with them a bit of our roots, we add to the colorfulness of the paintings with the mysticism that it expresses. Generally we put reggae music, that is from Jamaica, we like to put something more latin.  The record for doing a painting is 4 minutes, the fastest painting, sometimes we take 10 or 15 minutes more or less.

Do you paint all types of scenes?

Yes, we have been asked to paint wizards, magicians, horses, unicorns, all kinds of things we can do, but this is a commercial type of work and is my only source of income, so we do commercial work, occasionally we bring different work, only to exhibit them, of what can be done with spray paint.

Is your work well paid?

Yes, we do well, above all because the people are always changing, it's a very interesting attraction , they are walking along and all of a sudden they see this and they are entertained, half an hour, an hour, there are tourists that come every day and they stay and watch, dreaming, like us.

Are your clients mostly foreigners?

They are American, they have more money and a naturally consumer society, but Mexicans also like it, they also buy from us when they are on vacation, there are many Mexicans that are not from here and they also buy from us.

The newspaper is an important factor?

Yes, that's the magic, before what you did with a paint brush, you can do simply spraying the colors and with newspaper putting and taking off, that makes texture, many people touch the paintings to see what it is like. It dries instantly, 5 or 10 minutes, we torch it with fire, that is part of the ritual, it helps it to dry also.

What other instruments do you use in this technique?

Spatula, painting tools, brushes,

Do you have an official permit to be in this place?

Yes we have permission from the government, we used to paint in front of Carlos OBriens when  we arrived here, but there was such a crowd that people couldn't pass, so they gave us this space.

Ricardo Huet, another of the initiators of this technique, once brought Jose Luis Cuevas here to this city, explains to us that this is a recognized technique in Europe, in fact Cuevas recognizes this as a pictorial technique that deserves much respect; there was a polemic a few years ago about if this was a craft or if it was a pictorial technique, and in the end the answer was that it was a respected technique, of course I could also say that it includes many techniques, dactilopintura, aeropintura, spatula work, brocha rapida, and Bob Ross' style , which is a very old French technique  called brocha gorda, and one French man does it with a rag, we do it with newspaper, and that is the essence of the textures, this gives us a maximum of texture.

Has this extended to all of Mexico?

Yes, we were few, in the beginning, above all those of us who created this technique, and obviously we have taught people, we made a school that is just beginning to function, the Mexican School of Aeropintura, that includes us and we actually don't have a building, we did have it, but it was difficult to maintain, but we decided to conserve the idea inside ourselves, and it is us, we keep evolving the technique.

If someone wants to learn to do this what should they do?

We can teach them here, with total precision, in fact, normally we have students, I have North American students, European and and Mexicans, in the world there are, I have information of 20  or 30, most of them are students of our students, and they recognize that this began here, many Europeans have learned here and they say it openly there and this makes me feel happy; For example in Spain I can corroborate that there are Spanish people that have learned and have told the public, and the newspapers that they learned in Mexico, that this technique is Mexican, and this is good because it is a Mexican technique, it's a little point in our favor, says Ricardo Huet.

Have you had expositions? We ask Gerardo.

Yes,  sometimes we have had expositions in New Orleans, there I have a friend who also paints this technique, and there are murals, that's where he shows his work, at first we had expositions in Mexico City in some galleries and universities; really what happened is that the galleries are cruel, you gain fame but not money, and we don't have a boss, or king that supports us, we need to sell, and so this is more to suit us.

Is there an official organization?

Yes, it's more of a school, it began as an association, we began in Mexico but we brought it to Vallarta because here we could see that there were more selling possibilities, in Mexico really there was not much tourism, we were in the Zona Rosa and tourism was limited and the price was low, and here no, here we found much affluence in the tourists with an adequate price.

Do you know if this art is done elsewhere?

I think it is in the whole world, but in our country, in Cancun, which is also originating it second after Puerto Vallarta, is where there are many, there are 6, I just got back from there and I counted six representatives of our school. In Acapulco there are 4, here we are 6 and in the north in Ciudad Juarez, I calculate that there are another 10 counting the northern states.

Anything you would like?

The only thing we are looking for is a little bit of support from the authorities, for example the Secretary of Tourism.

You don't have it?

Yes we have it, but not directly, we have it but maybe we want a little bit more, we want letters so that we can travel because we think we will go again to Europe and South America, but we need letters where they recommend and support us to the other governments, for example in other countries and where we can work, this is the only thing that we would like from the community, apart from that I think that our work during these 10 years has been very positive because the people come to Vallarta sometimes just to see us and buy from us and we are an essential part of the culture and art of Vallarta.

Do you paint any other techniques?

We do murals, in Cancun I did a mural 20 meters by 10 wide in a building, and we can do murals here of any size, we work for restaurants , publicity, individuals, and we are open to any type of work; we also decorate vans, motorcycles, cars and all this is part of our versatility.

Any message?

Thank you very much, thanks to the authorities that allow us to work, and thanks to the town, to our community that in many ways have supported and accepted us, they have digested us, its important to thank the authorities that let us be here and to the people who pay us much attention, I hope that one day we can teach the young to paint in place of doing graffiti and dirtying the city.