Friday, February 4, 2011

Blu in Costa Rica

One of my favorite street artists is an Italian muralist/animator who goes by Blu. I've known about him for a little while - he does these amazing wall animations where he'll paint something on a wall, take a picture, paint over it a bit, take a picture, repeat, repeat, sometimes move away from the wall and move objects around and move along the street - basically he makes stop motion animations out on the street. We had one of his videos in the recent Viva la Revolucion exhibition at MCASD.

I recently stumbled across a video where some people interested in his art followed him around for a while (back in 2006) as he traveled through Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Argentina to create a documentary of sorts. They ended up showing a lot of his process, however they also were really drawn to the people with which he interacted. Blu worked in a lot of areas that were pretty poor or had been hit badly by natural disasters or political instability, but he found great community leaders who used the arts to bring hope and beauty into people's lives, and he often collaborated with community art centers or local youth in villages as he worked on his projects. It's a great film and it's available in its entirety (just under an hour) at this link (sorry - I couldn't figure out how to embed the video). If you'd like to specifically see the part in Costa Rica, start around minute 37.

Blu's style is very much linked to drawing, even though he does primarily work with paint. There is a strong linear quality to his work, and he has a very particular style, dominated by slightly rotund and simplified male human forms that organically's hard to know exactly what he "means" by them, but I like one quote he says in the movie when a young man asks him about his intention:
Well it's not that everything must have a precise meaning - these are symbols that can also be used to say something, but normally drawing should be detached from meaning. People should decide themselves what they are about.
One of my favorite parts of the movie is towards the end, in Argentina, when the film crew spends a lot of time listening to people analyze Blu's work. Everyone has different ideas about what it means and one kid reads so much into the work - it's cool to see how Blu's work, by not having specific obvious meaning, draws the viewer in as they work their way through it. I hope that his work in every country sparked dialogue like what was shown towards the end of the video!

While in Costa Rica, Blu visited San Jose and worked with a group that provided opportunities for kids to create and express themselves. The leaders mentioned that 20 years ago Costa Rica was quite different, with really good public education. However, the leaders say that the focus has turned to creating more prisons and police forces. Blu talks to the kids about how he feels graffiti belongs on the streets and is a way for lots of people to begin creating art. He takes the kids out and they ask locals if they can cover up walls that are tagged and ugly with murals that they create as a group. The footage of Blu working with the kids is really cool - lots of high spirits, kids working with him, people coming out to watch, etc.

So, I was really impressed with this movie, and I hope you enjoy it! It's a bit of a tangent for my blog as it only partially relates, but I think it's an interesting reflection of life and opportunities for kids in some parts of Costa Rica.

1 comment:

  1. The street art scene (sorry I don't include tagging) is really cool. Thanks for working it into the blog even in an indirect way!