Murals are an important form of art accessible to people who usually wouldn’t go to museums. Not only are they necessary, but they also dismantle the idea that art is exclusive. Latino artists have been breaking the barriers of exclusivity in art. Here are seven contemporary Puerto Rican muralists who are doing just that and doing it well
Painter and urban muralist Alexis Diaz began drawing since he was very young. He was always attracted to street art because it was a form of art that was accessible—it reached various types of people on a grander scale who normally wouldn’t see institutionalized art. Alexis started creating murals in 2010 alongside another Puerto Rican muralist and friend, Juan Fernandez, aka JUFE, who share similar styles—I’ll talk about JUFE later on. With not much variety of mural work in the Puerto Rican scene at the time, Alexis sought inspiration from artists like Keith Haring and began painting around Puerto Rico. He is now an international muralist painting everywhere from Mexico to Budapest. Follow him on Instagram.
Philadelphia-native and community educator Betsy Casañas is both a studio artist as well as an extraordinary muralist. Her public art work possesses a force and strength that can be seen from blocks away depicting stories of culture and strong figures within the Latino community. Dedicated to community development, Betsy co-founded The Semilla Arts Initiative in 2003, a grassroots initiative to empower under served communities in Philadelphia. In 2010 she opened A Seed on Diamond Gallery, a community space where a diverse group of artists from all backgrounds can express themselves through different forms of art, such as spoken word and music.
Calling himself an interventionist artist—someone who intervenes in communities through art to liberate the space—Celso Gonzalez began to do street art in Loíza, Puerto Rico at a young age. He is an international artist where he has intervened in public spaces in France, Brazil, and Taiwan. His long resume of public art projects and collaborations with other artists such as Puerto Rican architect and artist Roberto Biaggi make Celso one of Puerto Rico’s important artists of today. View his work on Instagram.
San Juan-native David Sepulveda, also known as Don RimX, is a classical fine art trained artist, graffiti purist, and grand scale muralist. David grew up in one of the highest crime-infested housing projects of the 1990s in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His parents saw their son’s love and talent for art at an early age and placed him in art classes—not only to develop his skills but also to keep him away from the everyday violent reality. With his parents’ sacrifices, David went on to graduate from the Escuela de Artes Plásticas. Today, he has participated in art festivals on a national and international scale. .
Juan Fernández, aka JUFE, was born in Río Piedras and is a friend of Alexis Diaz. They share a similar style in creating murals that have intricate line details. Like Diaz, JUFE draws unique parts of animals and combines them together. It isn’t a surprise Alexis and JUFE created a duo group called La Pandilla. While their art is up for interpretation, it’s based on a surrealist aesthetic.
All-female artist collective Moriviví from Puerto Rico paint large-scale feminist murals around the island. The group started off at the Santurce Es Ley street art festival in 2013 and has worked on major murals since then. Their name literally translates to “I died I lived,” a name that embodies their art and human experience.
Adrián ‘Viajero’ Román
Adrián ‘Viajero’ Román is a Nuyorican whose art resembles the struggles of race, migration, and identity Puerto Ricans have to go through both on the island and in New York City. He creates drawings, paintings, and sculpture using his personal experiences and history that speak to the community. He is also the co-founder of Defend Puerto Rico, a multimedia project that exposes the struggles and successes on the island by interviewing the locals on video. Follow him on Instagram.
Many of these muralists participate in Santurce es Ley, a street art festival based in Santurce that brings public artists together during one weekend to create murals and share their art. It’s been held every March since 2010, so make it a part of your next visit to Puerto Rico.