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Jef Aerosol: French Street Art for Argentina

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The air was heavy and stagnant. The smell of spray paint hung suspended, rising from the artist’s bottle, over the spectators and stretching out like a cloud along the florescent bulbs that lined the ceiling. The artist paused for a moment and skipped down his ladder, pushing it aside to add one final component to the masterpiece he had created live. He finished the piece by spraying his signature at the bottom right-hand corner of the massive work, gently placed his tools beside the wall, and humbly stepped back with a half-smile. He casually merged into the group of people who had gathered to observe him work for the several hours as the dense air disintegrated with applause and movement and sighs of admiration. The whole room seemed to exhale for the first time since he started transforming the blank wall into a truly powerful piece of art.

Jeff Aerosol (Photo: Avery Kelly)

Jeff Aerosol (Photo: Avery Kelly)

Jef Aerosol is an innovative French artist who pioneered the street art scene in his country in the 1980s. Now in his 50s, Aerosol is not slowing down and is touring his work internationally. The artist has left his mark on walls in Paris, London, Lisbon, Madrid, Venice, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Brussles, Zurich, Beijing, Tokyo, Palermo, and Dublin, among others. On 17th February, he kicked off a series of events and displays in Argentina.

The themes of Aerosol’s work are centred on pop-culture, but he occasionally spotlights more socio-political themes. He paints monumental images of famous rock stars but also creates series of anonymous figures, like his famous image of a child solemnly hugging his knees, entitled “sitting kid.”

Jef Aerosol (Photo: Avery Kelly)

Jef Aerosol (Photo: Avery Kelly)

Aerosol’s work is black and white in its majority, although each piece always includes at least one of his curious bright red arrows that sporadically appear throughout his images.

This month, invited by the Buenos Aires Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with the French embassy, the Inti Main Foundation, and the City of Ushauia, Aerosol is to leave four shows in Argentina, which he calls “interventions” because he performs them live – that is, spray-painting on the spot in front of a public audience.

He set up his latest project, Work in Progress, in two sites in Buenos Aires. The first was painted in the Recoleta Cultural Centre on Sunday 17th February. The show is comprised of a series of five walls that will be formally displayed from 6th – 31st March. The exhibit shows the artist’s vast array of styles, which is surprisingly varied for the limited quantity of tools he employs. His skill, although visible in the mechanics and techniques he uses to create such lively images, is most apparent in his ability to emit powerful emotions and engaging expressions from stencils and spray paints.

Jef Aerosol (Photo: Avery Kelly)

Jef Aerosol (Photo: Avery Kelly)

The Recoleta show is really worth a visit, and entrance is free and open to the public from Tuesday-Friday from 2pm-9pm and Saturdays, Sunday, and feriados from 12pm-9pm. The Recoleta Cultural Centre is located on Junin 1930. For more details on the show, visit http://agendacultural.buenosaires.gob.ar/evento//6671.

Aerosol visited the historic neighbourhood of La Boca for the second phase of his Buenos Aires project. This time the artist painted in the open air, in a more likely setting for his medium. The intervention was done on 21st February on Suárez street between Lanín and Herrera, and features a piece honouring Argentine rock and roll. This La Boca work is to remain present for public viewing until 16th March.

On Monday 25th February, Aerosol took his stencils and spray bottles to Ushuaia to paint a huge wall of a municipal building part of the Magnificent Ushuaia programme. His last stop in Argentina will be for an intervention on the corner of 25 de Mayo and San Martín in Ushaia on 27th February.

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