José Franco and street art

/ 1 September, 2016

(…) In his years as a student of ISA, José Franco had studied mural painting and street art, since this one was one of the subjects in his study curriculum. It was there that he entered for the first time into contact with the techniques and the tradition of mural painting in the world.

(…) When finishing his studies in ISA, Pepe Franco became part of the staff of professors in the institution. But he remembers that at that time the mural professorship had disappeared. And then, within the subject of Art, in which he was a professor as well as Eduardo Ponjuán, there was a part in which they studied the form of doing joint works with the students in public places and, therefore, mural painting had rather remained as a workshop practice. The main idea was carrying out a socially “useful” work from the recovery of public places. So they faced the challenge of finding walls on the city and create in them works in keeping with the environment. It is from this professorship, and as part of the study program, that he then led the realization of the murals the students were creating. From that time is the mural of the killer whales and the dolphins that was located on the corner of 1st Avenue and 42 St., on a wall of the Cuban National Aquarium that today does not exist. Many have also remembered the mural in 1st Avenue and 8 St. in Miramar, in which there was a bicycle leaning against what everyone in Cuba knows as a “peerless fence” and the famous wall in La Rampa that was joined by shoelaces.

José Franco has never stopped painting and, in recent years, has continued making murals in public spaces. In 2014 he was invited to take part in the Second International Biennial of Mural Painting and Public Art in Cali, Colombia. This Biennial, organized by MULI (Museo Libre de Arte Público de Cali) is an initiative pretending to give back the public space to the city. The subject of this Biennial had to do with national reconciliation, which in the case of Colombia is always a topic of present time, but also with the reconciliation of the persons with their community and with the environment in which they live. In that event Franco participated with two murals, one made solo and named Visión natural (Natural Sight), in the Cali zoo; and another entitled La constelación de la reconciliación (The Constellation of Reconciliation), in collaboration with Gabriel, Brazilian artist of the mosaic, in which they worked in a grade crossing in the same city. This mural was made with a mixed technique, since Gabriel completed part of the mosaics and Pepe drew on the wall. In these murals, Franco recreated his recurrent thematic, the ecology and protection of the environment but, in this case, inspired on the birds and textures of autochthonous animals of the Colombian fauna.

(…) Also in 2014, and as part of the project Viví Arte (I Lived Art), he made a large mural in the Barrio Florida Oeste in the Municipality of Vicente López in Buenos Aires Province. This immense mural (composed by four walls, 50 meters long each) which he entitled La jungla en el asfalto (The Jungle in the Asphalt) and was made with the technique of synthetic enamel, in a low bridge of the locality, summarizes his concept and the base of his artistic creation since, with the use of natural elements, he was able to transform a purely industrial and hostile place for passers-by and inhabitants into a friendly and pleasant abode for all those inhabiting its environment or using it during their journey on that area of the city. The project Viví Arte was created in that Municipality in Argentina with the purpose of making cultural and touristic activities to encourage the integration of the neighbors and improve their life standards by beautifying their environment of life and work.

(…) In 2015 he was invited by the Bird Road Art District (BRAD), in the Miami Dade County, to make a mural on one of the walls of this area, with the subject of man and nature. The mural that was made there was entitled El profeta (The Prophet) and takes up one of the walls of that circuit of art and design born in Miami in 2000. (…)

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