Coloring Caracas

Oil-rich Venezuela has been presided over by the polarizing Hugo Chávez since 1998.

Amid-- and representing-- the Bolivarian Republic's divisions is it's vibrant street art. The graffiti splashed on the walls of its capital Caracas is emblematic of both the country's strong swerve towards socialism and its ever-present counterculture.

What do these murals say about contemporary Venezuela? How can they boost our understanding of expression, urbanity and the so-called Latin American Left?

And if you're also a graffiti aficionado, I -- totally objectively, of course -- recommend checking out my previous blog dedicated to the art.  http://porteno-pulse.blogspot.com/ delves into the murals of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Additionally, here is  a photo gallery of Venezuelan graffiti: http://www.flickr.com/photos/57932097@N03/

Location

Caracas
Venezuela
  • Alexandra Ulmer | February 11th, 2011
    Hundreds of Venezuelans whose slum dwellings were ravaged by torrential rains were moved into luxury hotels under President Hugo Chavez' orders. True. Simon Bolivar's remains were excavated-- on live television-- in an attempt to prove political...
  • Alexandra Ulmer | January 18th, 2011
        A harsh, mournful face stares out from the wall. The man's brow is furrowed and his eyes gaze out, seemingly searching to erase the melancholy that swirls around him.     But what's that to the right of the mural?...
  • Alexandra Ulmer | January 16th, 2011
       Hugo Chávez likes: Revolution, Socialism, Latin American unity, guerrilla warfare, symbols, good quotes and martyrs. (Also, Twitter, cigars and giving 7-hour speeches, but that's off topic).    Hugo Chávez dislikes:...
  • Caracas sangrente, by Nelson Garrido
    Alexandra Ulmer | January 14th, 2011
          As national museums slowly wilt, local artists have retrenched into private galleries-- but remain active on the political front.       In the above piece, 'Caracas sangrante' by Nelson...
  • Indigenous person portrayed breaking free from shackles
    Alexandra Ulmer | January 14th, 2011
        Hugo Chávez assumed the presidency in 1998, promising to usher in new powers to the neglected Indigenous peoples of Venezuela. They make up about two percent of the population and are concentrated in the southern and western areas...
  • Alexandra Ulmer | January 13th, 2011
        Uncle Sam is alive, but not so well, on the walls of Caracas. If Che and Simón Bolívar are the undisputed champions of Venezuelan street art, he is just as starkly the enemy. The Northerner-- better known here as Yankee or...
  • Alexandra Ulmer | January 13th, 2011
        The Socialist revolution boasts two new guerrilleros: Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, at least according to the above mural. And they've brought two little friends along-- machine guns. To the left of the drawings, the...
  • Alexandra Ulmer | January 11th, 2011
        Jaime Gili, a Venezuelan artist, likes to paint boats, motorcycle helmets and windows. Among the other unconventional places where he dabbles his brush are walls. He was commissioned by the municipality of Sucre, located in...
  • Alexandra Ulmer | January 10th, 2011
    Feisty and biting, political slogans abound here-- ranging from 'Oust Chávez' to 'Better living is Socialist living'. But often just as equally opinionated are the artistic murals that grace the walls of the city. Bolívar, Chávez and Che dominate....
  • Alexandra Ulmer | January 10th, 2011
    Though Caracas is plastered in bold, vibrant murals, the less sophisticated tags are also worth noting. Below, a small selection: Sign promoting the Caraqueño municipality. Scrawled over it, 'down with the rejected Reds,' lampoons the trademark...
  • Bolivar's message claimed by this state mural, then reclaimed by a dissenter
    Alexandra Ulmer | January 7th, 2011
          Don't be fooled by reports that Simón Bolívar died of tuberculosis on December 17th 1830.       Because the epic South American liberator fiercely rages on in Venezuela-- now technically known...
  • Alexandra Ulmer | January 6th, 2011
            In Caracas, a blank wall is as rare as expensive petrol, a sweater or a mansion without barbed wire snaked around it.       The capital is brimming with tagged buildings, tunnels and...
  • Policemen patrol (or rest?) as the new National Assembly kicks off
    Alexandra Ulmer | January 5th, 2011
        The new National Assembly was ushered in at 11am this morning in Caracas. To greet them, supporters of President Hugo Chavez, decked out in red, converged on one side of the city. On the other, opposition groups, upset about...
  • Alexandra Ulmer | January 5th, 2011
    While the plane cruised from sparkling waters over to lush hills, the steward distributed entry papers for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Once we landed in Caracas, a massive banner kindly announced to the uninformed visitor that Socialism...