"Cabaio stencil"

Argentinian stencil pioneer Cabaio recently brought his distinct aesthetic to NYC.  A few weeks back, I discovered him at work at the Bushwick Collective and was mesmerized by his stunningly intricate, brightly hued stencil work.

When and where did you first get up on a public surface?

I began in Buenos Aires in 2001.

What was your inspiration at the time?

In the midst of an economic crisis, there were too many ads in public spaces. They seemed to be everywhere. And I didn’t like looking at ads. I saw my artwork as an alternative way of using public space.  And then in 2003, during the invasion of Iraq, I was further inspired to use public space to transmit messages. The global political situation — at the time  — motivated me to make my own mark.

"Cabaio stencil"

Have you any favorite surfaces or spots?

I like rough surfaces, and I always seek the right context for a piece. I particularly like quiet spots.

Have you ever been arrested?

About seven years ago, the cops took my tools away from me.  But these days I feel free to paint just about anywhere.  Street artists have become the new pop stars!


How does your family feel about what you are doing?

At first they thought I was too old to be doing this. Now they are proud of me.

Do you have a formal arts education?

I studied architecture for one year.

Have you any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

I don’t feel it. They are both cool art forms. There shouldn’t be a divide.


What about the movement of street art into galleries? How do you feel about that?

I have no problem with galleries, as long as the people there respect our work.

Have you shown your work in any galleries?

Yes, I’ve exhibited in Buenos Aires, São Paulo, New York City, Washington DC and in Indonesia.

What about corporations? So many seem eager to embrace the aesthetics of street art these days.

If they respect our work and use it honestly and pay us well – then it’s all good!


Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetics?

I’ve been influenced by Argentinian culture and by Japanese comic culture.

What do you think of the role of the Internet in all of this?

It’s certainly a revolution, as it can provide us all with unlimited information.

Have you any favorite artists – stencil artists, in particular?

I like Blek Le Rat, the stencil pioneer.  I think Banksy is amazingly clever. And I love the São Paulo-based duo Alto Contraste.


What do you see as the future of street art?

It will only continue to get stronger.

And what about you? What’s ahead for you?

I will never allow myself to feel comfortable. My art continues to evolve with more emphasis on its aesthetic element and far less on its political one. I will continue to always challenge myself.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky. First photo — of Cabaio at work the Bushwick Collective by Lois Stavsky; all others courtesy of the artist

{ 1 comment }

Speaking with Sonni

May 24, 2013

Argentinian artist Sonni Adrian has been delighting us New Yorkers with his bold colors and playful themes since he moved here in 2011.  We recently had the opportunity to visit his studio and speak to him.


When did you first begin creating art? 

When I was about seven years old, my parents enrolled me in an afterschool art program. I loved it, and I spent hours there every day.

What about getting your artwork up in public spaces? When did that first happen? And where?

I started getting up about eight years ago in Buenos Aires. I began first with stickers, and then I moved on to paste-ups and wheatpastes.

What was your subject matter back then – when you first began?

It was mostly back and white icons of playful inanimate characters.


What inspired you to get up on the streets?

I was bored at my day job – where I spent all my time creating artwork for commercial purposes.

Have you any preferred spots or surfaces?

As I paint with acrylic, I prefer flat surfaces, rather than walls with bricks. But I love integrating windows into my pieces and I like interesting textures.

How do your parents feel about what you are doing?

At first they didn’t understand it.  But now they appreciate it.


What percentage of your time is devoted to art these days?

Just about all of it!

What is the main source of your income as an artist?

I freelance as an art director for animation.

Have you a formal art education?

I studied graphic design for four years back in Argentina.


Have you any favorite artists? Influences?

I love Matisse. Among my influences are: Yoshitomo Nara, Japanese Kawaii style, and Disney’s first Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat.

What about back in Argentina? Any favorite artists who paint in public spaces?

Tec, Chu, Ever, Kid Gaucho, Jaz, Gualicho, Parbo, Defi, BsAs Stencil, Pedro Perelman & run don’t walk are among my favorites.

Any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

I love it all. All art that is on the street is “street art.”


How does the street art scene back in Buenos Aires compare to NYC’s?

There is much more freedom in Buenos Aires.  You won’t go to jail there for painting on the streets. The atmosphere, in general, is more open and relaxed.

When you paint, do you work with a sketch in hand or just let it flow?

I always work with a sketch. My sketchbooks are my reference.

Are you generally satisfied with your final piece?

Never! I always feel I can do more.


You’ve had solo shows not only in Argentina, but in Miami and in NYC, and you’ve participated in group shows across the globe.  Any thoughts about the move of street art into galleries?

It’s amazing!  And a completely different experience. It’s quite a transition for any artist who is accustomed to painting on the streets.

What’s ahead?

I try not to think too much about that. But I know that I want to continue painting. I’m happiest when I’m painting, and I have quite a few exciting projects coming up. My long-term goal is to be able to do my own thing full time. And I would love to design a playground for children.

That sounds great! We’re certainly looking forward to that!


You can check out Sonni’s artwork tomorrow evening — as reMADE presents Sonni, Aaron Stewart, and Nile the Crocodile starting at 6pm at 469 DeKalb Ave.

Photos by Lenny Collado, Tara Murray and Lois Stavsky

{ 1 comment }