Uruguay buzzes with social unrest. Still reeling from a spectacular economic crash and the broken promises of politicians, it’s a breeding ground for urban revolution. Citizens take to the streets to protest everything from domestic violence to labour disputes, so it’s no surprise that this message is found scrawled across the city walls in the form of arte callejero. No longer relegated to political anarchists and football hooligans, it’s a revered medium for some of Uruguay’s most beloved artists and has come to represent freedom of expression, the voice of the people, and the stories of the city in vibrant colour. Here, Culture Trip takes a look at the best street art in Uruguay.
Alfalfa, or Nicolás Sanchez, is perhaps Uruguay’s most well-known urban artist. He was born in Venezuela and trained at the Montevideo’s Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes. His work merges myth and fantastical beasts with human stories gleaned from local culture, particularly influenced by the idea that all religions seek the same thing: communication with god. His striking murals grace the walls of Montevideo and Punta del Este, brightening the skylines with chalky pastels and fairy tale-esque whimsy.
David de la Mano was born in 1975 in Salamanca, Spain. He graduated with a degree in fine art and launched his career with public sculptures and installations, before emerging on the urban art scene with his murals in 2008. He makes incredible use of black and white to portray thoughtful anthropological scenes, often tackling haunting themes like conflict, fear and vice. His work can be found across Uruguay, Brazil, Norway and the USA.
Fiorella Varaldi, better known as the spray artist Fiolence, began her career as a fashion designer and illustrator. Her unexpected street art makes use of latex and stencils, often bringing powerful dark imagery together with uplifting messages of hope. Off the street, Varaldi heads up art direction at Montevideo-based design hub Capicua.
María Noel Silvera, or Noel, is a muralist and video game illustrator. Her work is pretty and affecting, capturing the emotion of human faces against cosmic and jungle backdrops. She studied painting at the Escuela Pedro Figari in Montevideo, moving swiftly into electronic and digital art. Her murals, painted on walls and recycling bins, were showcased as part of the Pintó movement in the city in December 2016.
Camilo Núñez and Florence Durán form the team that is Colectivo Licuado. Working with vibrant paints and championing collaboration, their work reflects the interaction between people and their environment. It’s heavily influenced by surrealism, texture and the human condition. The collective has exhibited murals in Poland, Italy and Portugal and can be spotted on the streets of Montevideo.
Lälin conceptualises his street art as gifts to the public. Influenced by cartoons and child-like colours, his work is a lighter note among deep social commentary on Uruguay’s walls. A student of advertising and graphic design, he taught himself the twin skills of illustration and painting. Stumble across his murals in far-flung cities such as as Montevideo, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Oslo.