A Passion for Paint
By Billy McCall
Painting graffiti in Albuquerque is a labor of love. Not only do artists need to overcome risks of jail time and physical injury, but anything they paint is typically removed by the city within a day or two anyway. This makes catching photos of Burque graffiti its own labor of love.
Fortunately, local photographers Lisa Barrios and Agustín McCord are up to the challenge. They’ve been documenting Albuquerque’s graffiti scene for years, and in December 2013 released a full-color magazine titled Duke City Graffiti. Funded mainly through Kickstarter.com, DCG is a slim, glossy publication that packs in page after page of spray-can art.
“A lot of artists in Albuquerque put in all kinds of time and energy,” McCord tells me. “We just wanted to bring a little attention to that.”
The photos presented in the magazine focus on vibrant, high-value productions, art pieces that force the audience to respect the talent involved, whether or not they agree with the medium. Each artist represented has their own style, from the larger-than-life animal murals of Irot to the overlapping letters and backwards E’s of Elite. And when you’re done looking through all the pretty pictures, there’s an interview with Bozo and Gets, local legends in the Albuquerque graffiti world. Although the graffiti community in New Mexico may not be as large as in other urban areas, DCG proves there’s still a wide variety of skilled artists here, each with their own unique style.
Which is exactly what McCord and Barrios want to share with the rest of the world. Barrios claims to have some 20,000 graffiti photos on her computer, and McCord casually refers to graff photography as “basically a second job.” Seeking out and photographing illegal artwork is an ambitious task. The quick removal of street-level graffiti means that a lot of artists choose to paint in hard-to-find spots: abandoned buildings, train yards and down in the tunnels. These are places most people are not willing to go, which is why DCG is such a treasure. It allows the public to see a culture that’s normally hidden and forbidden.
When I ask what makes graffiti in Albuquerque unique, Barrios explains different ways artists show pride in their culture through their art.
“There is an artist named Chale, for example, who is always painting low-rider cars, or putting cholo versions of Bart Simpson into his art. Artists out here take a lot of pride in where they’re from.”
In an age where uploading websites is increasingly easier, while producing physical media is increasingly more difficult, it’s refreshing to meet with people willing to put in the extra effort when sharing their passion with the world.
Barrios and McCord are planning a release party for issue #1 of DCG in the near future, and are already talking about issue #2. Stay updated by checking out their Instagram account, @dukecitygraffiti. They always have new photos to share.
Copies of Duke City Graffiti can be purchased locally at Caps, on Seventh and Central, or Hometown Heroez at 3100 San Mateo NE. For more information, or to purchase online, visit kronikiceking.bigcartel.com. For a mere $5, this is an easy way to own a bit of Albuquerque artistry.
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