Beyond the wall
Cred: Street Art
Jared Antonio-Justo Trujillo did some tagging as a teenager in Santa Fe. “I definitely painted trains and did pieces, but it didn’t last very long. I wasn’t a big graffiti guy. And now, running from the cops at fortyone years old might not be the best thing,” he said. “But in my opinion, graffiti is the most exciting, most rebellious, most contemporary art there is.”
Trujillo considers himself an abstract expressionist who takes inspiration from and utilizes elements of graffiti, his experience as a sign-maker, and knowledge gained as a studio art major at the College of Santa Fe. An installation he made from vinyl decals on Dibond aluminum composite panels titled Evoke — which is his graffiti tag — is included in Cred: Street Art, opening Friday, Nov. 3, at the Community Gallery at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Other artists represented in the group show include Frank Buffalo Hyde, Shakti Kroopkin, Dylan Renfro, Robb Rael, Dawndria “Cholita” Scherff, and Israel Francisco Haros Lopez.
When gallery manager Rod Lambert put out the initial call for artists for the show, he didn’t get much response. “Street art has definitely been on the outside in Santa Fe, even though it’s accepted in other major art markets. I wasn’t tapped into the scene at all, but then I met Jared, and he kind of opened up the whole world to me.” Cred features graffiti as well as tramp art, pasteup, stickers, murals, photography, and other mediums. “It’s the whole gamut of people who are incorporating the language, techniques, materials, look, and feel of street art into their work,” Lambert said.
Trujillo owns Keep Contemporary, a gallery space he opened downstairs at 112 W. San Francisco St. in December 2016 to show graffiti- and street- art -influenced fine art. “Most of the people that I work with didn’t really fit into the galleries in Santa Fe, so I decided to create my own thing,” he said. Keep is not a graffiti gallery but a space for street artists who have grown into fine artists or street artists who also make studio art. “Graffiti is raw and anti- establishment. It’s an illegal thing to do, and that’s what makes it exciting. For me, to put graffiti in a museum or a gallery is contrived, so I came up with another way to do it. Santa Fe is the third biggest art market in America, supposedly, but where is this voice?” he asked, slipping into the role of advocate for local contemporary artists. “What I’m doing at Keep, and what this show is doing? This isn’t new; it’s only new to Santa Fe. Art tends to be a little elitist and stuffy here. That’s why I love what I’m doing as an artist, curator, and gallery owner. I’m working with people who aren’t doing what the establishment wants.”
Nanibah Chacon (Diné/Chicana), known internationally for her oil paintings and murals, started in graffiti when she was sixteen. “A lot of my friends were tagging. I was hanging out with skaters, hanging out in the arroyos in Albuquerque, because they’re great surfaces to skate,” she said. “There are also these very large walls, and I would see graffiti down there. I was just really drawn to making big pieces.” She spent 10 years in the Southwestern graffiti scene and then, after becoming a mother and an art teacher, transitioned to painting with oils on canvas after trying and rejecting both acrylic paints and airbrushing. She started painting murals about six years ago, and she gets to do brushwork on large outdoor surfaces and make work that has more social content and site-specificity than graffiti. As she has gotten older, she has become more invested in creating work that speaks to and about her community.
Haaláyeé, her piece for Cred, is a conceptual, textbased image created with graffiti artist and graphic designer Jaycee Beyale. “It’s mixed media on canvas, drawing from both of our knowledge about text. It’s a little bit more sign-painter-based than graffiti, though we did use spray paint. We really wanted this conceptual signage to be eye-catching, attractive, and fun, to engage the viewer into a curiosity of learning Navajo language.”
Chacon does not keep up much with the current graffiti scene, but she said it seems to have changed
significantly with the introduction of social media platforms like Instagram. “What I see now is that everybody can say they’re a graffiti writer. On Instagram, you really have no idea where these walls are. They might just be walls someone is painting over and over. Pre-internet, it was more underground. Writers would send me packages in the mail with photographs of pieces that they did,” she said. “In Albuquerque, we don’t have tall buildings to paint, so the thing was to paint trains. That was the most accessible format because they would travel and get out of here.”
Trains, signs, social media, and graffiti are intimately intertwined for Joerael Elliott. Born in San Angelo, Texas, he has lived several places, including Los Angeles. He moved to Santa Fe from L.A. two years ago. He t alks f luidly about t he regional, national, and international history and culture of graffiti, and tends to dive deeply and quickly into associative meanings and metaphors. Iconoclastic
Network Variations, his piece for Cred, is a mural that extends onto canvas. It resembles a graffiti wall — known as a “placa” — that you might see under an urban highway overpass. “The global network of graffiti is all the different styles,” he said. “I put train logos to represent early internet, so to speak, because if you think about hobo monikers being emojis and graffiti writers tagging trains to network with other writers — this has informed the way we use social media with hashtagging, the @ symbol, and your wall of friends on Facebook, which is like a placa. This is all subconsciously from graffiti.
“Graffiti i s the first nondiscriminating global art form, within the constraints of hyper- characterized letters,” he continued. “You think about photography and film as global art forms, but they’re privileged. You have to have the money to buy the equipment, and lessons, and funding to produce something like a movie. But graffiti — it’s letters, and anyone can do it.” He qualified that some of what he espouses is agreed-upon graffiti history that is accepted by the street- art community, but much of it is rooted in personal observation and experience. “I don’t think it’s been officially established that graffiti is the basis for social networking, but I don’t care what anybody else says, because for me it’s total fact.”
The scientists at Santa Fe Institute seem to be onboard with or at least seriously intrigued by Elliott’s theories. In 2016, he spent three months at SFI as an artist-in-residence, creating a series of complexity-themed drawings to illustrate the institute’s research themes and giving presentations on graffiti and indigenous culture. He continues to create drawings for SFI publications, and in addition to making art, he also teaches yoga, which he sees as connected to graffiti. The physical nature of both activities requires repetitive, dedicated practice and the development of muscle memory and personal style. “It’s the experience you embody, that circle, where it becomes a self-portrait,” he said. “It’s the way you show up in this environment, in this moment in time.”
Alberto Zalma, Aezrock (A Self Portrait) (detail), mixed media on wood panel; opposite page, Joerael Elliott: Iconoclastic Network Variations (detail), mixed-media mural
David-Alexander Hubbard Sloan: Hosh Nímazí Níjaa’í Brady Pin Cushion Cactus (detail), acrylic on board