For those who love design, Chile’s capital city hides a creative, sophisticated and very exciting...
A Celebration of Design
Latin American graphic design is recognized the world over for its creativity and fresh, avantgarde perspective, with regional illustrators making a real splash. Here are six notable artists who will set your imagination free.
text: Georgina Lacube
Every artist has some identifying trait that sets him or her apart from the rest. In the case of Laura Varsky, a noted graphic designer and illustrator from Argentina, it’s her pen-and-ink drawings and typographic fonts, her commitment to lines and ornamentation, her patterns, her Art Nouveau-inspired style, the feminine and naïve quality to her work and her hand-drawn letters.
Varsky was 16 when she decided to study graphic design. “One day, we were visiting the house of a family friend, and he was working on an assignment for his design class. It was a book about tea. I found it incredible that you could analyze a topic, it pick apart and turn it into reading material, exploring textures, aromas, history, aesthetics and symbolism, creating a new way of presenting something as mundane as an infusion,” she recalls.
Some time later, Varsky registered for a workshop and began showing her work online. “I feel like illustration has gained a lot of ground over design in my career these days,” Varsky says.
She first gained notice in the world of independent rock. In 2004, musician and producer Gustavo Santaolalla chose Varsky to contribute to the creative direction of the documentary Café de los Maestros. For this project, she designed a book and several album covers, which earned her the first Latin Grammy awarded to a designer (2006). After this triumph, she made the bold decision to introduce her own font – Lady René – based on her hand-drawn letters.
Currently, Varsky is working on developing a second font, while also preparing a new book. In addition, as this issue was going to press, she was presenting an exhibit and new book at Galería Plop! in Santiago, Chile.
text: Mari Campos
Born in 1980, the young Brazilian artist Bruno 9li (Bruno Novelli) is one of the most interesting figures on the current South American art scene. Metaphysical by nature, his “chaotic” works incorporate metropolitan, ephemeral and technological references. His pieces are packed with symbols and allusions to popular culture, mythology, holy structures, comics and, of course, the world of science fiction. Beasts, gods and extraterrestrials brazenly mix and mingle.
Born in Fortaleza, in the state of Ceará, 9li – as he likes to be called – works extensively on canvas, although he is also a sculptor. Generally speaking, his work has developed from the pictorial side of design and painting, while mixing in other techniques from the worlds of video and graphic arts. He admires 15th-century European artists like Mathias Grünewald, but “nothing inspires me more than philosophy,” 9li says.
Currently, his show “Lux Tenebris” is touring various Brazilian galleries. The work consists of 12 paintings and two sculptures (in latex and resin) that express his vision of the origin of the universe. The pieces explore new techniques within hisoeuvre and new elements in his imagery. Highlights include a triptych more than 23 feet tall featuring a metaphysical narrative, references to Gothic painting and concepts from quantum physics and astrophysics.
Based in São Paulo, 9li continues to exhibit his work around the world, with shows in countries like Argentina, Spain, the United States, England and Japan. His principal interests are philosophy, primitivism, mythology and graphic art. “I’m a metagraphist,” he often says, “And I’ll tell you, it is possible to make a living as an artist these days.”
Angello García Bassi
text: Cintya Ramírez
A fan of origami and a follower of the “art toys” movement, advertising designer Angelo García discovered paper toys while surfing the Internet. He learned new things about paper, and gradually, the characters in his two-dimensional illustrations became three-dimensional shapes through an experimental process of folding, cutting and pasting. “I’ve always wanted to bring my illustrations into the real world, and paper toys offered an economic and appealing way to add dimension to my ideas,” explains the Chilean designer.
García’s explorations with paper and scissors inspired him to create the brand Cubotoy, a series that redefines the usefulness of toys, making them into something with decorative and collector value. Each character has its own unique identity and is crafted completely by hand. In fact, the originality and complexity of García’s creations have led him to participate in a number of expos and events; the most recent was an exhibit for the launch of Puma Lab in Santiago this past January. García’s work has also been featured in the booksUrban Paper (How Books, 2008),Papercraft (Gestalten, 2009) andWe Are Papertoys (Monsa, 2010).
García currently teaches in the school of design at the Universidad Diego Portales, while also developing the project “Cubotoy: Un mundo de papel” in the hopes of obtaining public funding. But his true mission extends beyond making toys: “Sharing ideas, reclaiming paper and turning my hobby into my life’s work are my real interests.”
text: Juliana Rojas
At the most recent Feria del Libro in Bogotá, nearly half a million people attending the annual book fair saw the enormous and colorful figures from works by Rafael Pombo, the most famous children’s writer in Colombian history.
The woman behind these astonishing images was Paola Gaviria, better known in the illustration world as Powerpaola.
A talented artist and, above all, a gifted illustrator, Gaviria’snom de plume was born one glum afternoon in Europe, when a man saw her crying on a train and wondered why she was sad. When he asked her name, he misheard “Paola” as “Power” – a simple misunderstanding that inspired her to believe in herself. That’s just what she’s done throughout her career: believing and drawing.
“What I like about illustration is that it forces me to examine new universes that I might not have discovered on my own. For instance, La Pepa – an illustration for the bicentennial of the Constitution of Cádiz – led me to research history, the Constitution and the clothing worn by Spaniards and Americans in 1812. It was a lot of fun. I was also inspired by working on a poster for an astronomy symposium in Germany, where drawing galaxies encouraged me to keep experimenting with more abstract forms.”
Gaviria has also illustrated the covers of books like Enrique Lozano’s Teatro Escogido and Cuatro Tiempos. Her drawings have appeared in Colombian magazines like Arcadia, Bakánica, La Revista de la Universidad de Antioquia and La Gaceta, as well as Cultra, a free cultural publication produced in Argentina.
It’s difficult to make a living from comic strips, says Gaviria, especially in her country, where comics are saddled with a tax that makes their production more expensive. “Luckily, the Internet has made it possible to work from anywhere, for anywhere.”
text: PAOLA carvajal
Alberto Montt grew up with books featuring Fontanarrosa, the embittered Olafo, the wise-beyond-her-years Mafalda, the witty Condorito and the timeless Charlie Brown. After devouring their stories, he would fill notebooks with drawing of the characters that would eventually lead him into the world of cartooning.
Perhaps it’s his modesty about his skill as an illustrator that fuels his preference for characters with exaggerated features. He pens his creations lightly before scanning them and giving them texture, color and a voice of their own in the virtual world. Social networks have played a large role in the promotion of his work, and his successful blog, Dosis diarias, is the best way to access his cartoons.
Montt was born in Quito, where he lived for 25 years, studied fine arts and graphic design, illustrated two children’s books and the pages of several magazines. In 1998, he moved to Santiago, and in his “Chilean period,” Montt founded the Siete Rayas collective and reached a new level of success and recognition, with his work regularly featured in a number of publications (including a weekly feature in the magazine Qué Pasa). Following the launch in Buenos Aires of his most recent book, ¡Mecachendié! – published by the prestigious Ediciones La Flor – Montt is thinking about relocating to the capital of Argentina. He feels that the Argentinean audience responds well to his work and that the genre of comics flourishes there.
Montt defines his calling as “an exercise in venting and freedom.” To him, illustrating is a link between his personal universe and the outside world, a bridge that offers “the possibility of complementing and adding concepts to a text by fleshing it out emotionally.”
text: Cinthia Delgado
Whoever said that men don’t pay attention to fashion was lying. Want proof? Look no further than the rapid growth of the Lima clothing brand Lama. Its owner, 29-year-old architect and graphic designer Neil Gayoso creates graphic designs stamped on pima cotton T-shirts. His products instantly set themselves apart from their more commercial counterparts.
Eight years ago, Gayoso began the venture by selling the shirts to his friends, but today he’s famous, with a store on Boulevard Marsano, a reemerging part of Miraflores that hosts a variety of local designers who make clothing, jewelry and décor items. In fact, Gayoso is so well know now that the sportswear company Puma invited him to join their opening campaign in Peru, Puma Social. Gayoso contributed more than 20 designs for the insoles of Puma sneakers, designs that users could select on the brand’s Wesbite. The campaign was a huge success.
Beyond men’s wear, Gayoso’s store also offers the Lama women’s line, design and coffee-table books, decorative objects and, soon, the brand Roosterbear, also created by Gayoso, which features interior design pieces like picture frames, cushions and sheets. “We opened the store because we wanted to be in touch with the public. Recently, we held an event, and I was happy to see that not just my friends, but a lot of other people came, too. We even had visitors come from Argentina who had heard good things about the store.”
You can find Gayoso’s shirts in Santiago, Buenos Aires, Bogotá and even Paris. He’ll soon head to Berlin to see how his work is received. “All the designs are originals. They include illustration, collage and photography. We’re not in this because we love the business, but because we love design.”
These publishers show why the region’s graphic design is praised and promoted.
Founded in 1966, this Argentinean publisher has some of today’s most sought-after illustrators in its stables, like Liniers and Alberto Montt, as well as old favorites like Fontanarrosa and Quino.
The first salvage publisher, Eloísa Cartonera, was founded in Buenos Aires in 2001. Since then, the region has seen more publishers promoting socially responsible and handmade work, often in collaboration with resource-poor neighborhoods and supported by high-quality catalogs. Other cartonera publishers in the region include Sarita Cartonera in Peru and Animita Cartonera in Chile.
Junta Editorial de las Comunas Unidas
“Good Chilean Design” is the slogan of this collective, founded in 2004 by Myrna Cisneros and Manuel Córdova, who are famous for their original publishing formats, which place an emphasis on national culture and heritage.
Originally created as a magazine in 1996, this Bogotá publisher provides consulting work to different authors and publishing projects.
A Peruvian publisher and bookstore, Contracultura produces comic books from Peru and abroad. In addition, they host the Librería Contracultura Graphic Novel Award, now in its third edition.
Tipos Latinos 2012
In its fifth year, the Bienal de Tipografía Latinoamericana showcases typographic fonts from 13 different Latin American countries. The works are shown simultaneously in all the participating country.
This Ecuadorian cultural collective has various projects, including Fanzinoteka Ecuador, which showcases the work of independent artists and publishers, many of them working in the field of comics or cartoons.
This isn’t a publisher; it’s an Ecuadorian group that promotes design within the country and Latin America, creating opportunities for conversation and discussion. Grafitat also organizes workshops, conferences, exhibits and other events related to graphic design.
Watch and Learn
Books and magazines that compile the vibrant visual language of Latin America.
Latin American Graph ic Design, Taschen, 2008
Brazil’s Felipe Laborda and Julius Wiedemann published this book, which features more than 200 noted designers.
Latino-Grafico, Gestalten, 2010
The 224 pages of this book cover a selection of graphic design, illustrations and fonts from regional artists. It also comes with a DVD.
Revista a! Diseño
Founded in 1991 by Antonio and Rafael Pérez, this is the first Mexican magazine dedicated to professional graphic design.
Muy Rico Todo
Design professionals use this Website to present portfolios, news, interviews and events, all related to the world of art and design.
Four years ago, two Chilean designers created this online Latin American graphic design store, which sells more than 300 objects designed in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Chile.
Popular de lujo
This Colombian Website was created by a collective dedicated to finding inspiration in Bogotá’s urban graphic design, as a way of preserving the customs of its people.