Press Release | “Space-Landscape” is Pastel’s debut solo exhibition in the United States and also his first solo exhibition in years. Being a human in the world means to be surrounded by an environment created by men where all of the elements of modern nature are social actors that constitute the new landscape. The work for “Space-Landscape” is almost a retrospective of the many murals created around the world by Pastel over the years. Experiences and narratives of various communities from as far as Australia to as close as San Leandro come to light, together, for the first time. The exhibition will include a diverse array of sizes, mediums, colors and plants displayed as paintings and sculptures. The opening reception will be held on September 9th at 7pm in Downtown Oakland with Athen B. Gallery. The gallery is located at 1525 Webster St. and is convenient to both 12th and 19th St. Bart stations. To be added to the collectors preview contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Curator Statement | I first learned of Francisco Diaz (Pastel’s) work through mutual friends. I realized quickly how special and unique Francisco’s work is. There are thousands of artists who work on murals and exhibit works around the world. Through easy exposure on social media and the internet there seems to be hundreds of new artists each month. One thing lacking from a lot of his peers is the social consciousness and awareness that comes with working in a variety of cities across the world, both in their galleries and their communities. Pastel takes the community into consideration, letting it influence his choices.
Pastel is on the short list of artists I’ve come to know who really does his research before putting paint on the wall of a community, reflecting on local politics, history, and geography of each project before arriving to paint. He prefers smaller cities because of the experiences and interactions that come when immersing himself in that place.
In the early 2000’s Francisco was drawn to the liberating freedom that graffiti has brought so many over the years. Letter structure was not the focus of his illegal expression, but creating flowers. The flowers are derivative to the flow of the graffiti we see in our day to day. Shortly thereafter, everything changed as he studied and graduated with a degree in Architecture from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. After a few years, he left his day job as an architect, but he still considers what he now creates as a form of architecture. The murals are similar to architecture, but the result is much more abstracted than designing a building. He refers to his work as Urban Acupuncture. The work acts as small interactions with a city that can help improve the already existing environment. In the artist’s eyes, a lot of cities he has visited lack a strong identity; they are not really designed for the people who live there, regardless of what the city planners may say.
Pastel’s process is fairly simple. First, he starts with research to develop a strong idea or structure of what a piece can potentially become. It isn't until after his arrival that he knows what the exact piece will be. Before painting, he walks the surrounding environment to study colors, architecture, and the people that make up the city. Once that is complete, he is able to stabilize and build off the previously conceived structure, much like an architect would before submitting a final proposal.
The colors chosen in the murals come from a personal and conscious way of interacting with a place. The subject matter of his murals are a way of talking about various complex issues in a language that can be directly appreciated through color palette and shapes of plants native to the area, the surrounding region, or even the weeds that grow on the actual wall being painted. By working with plants as social symbolism, the pieces are a dialogue about the nature of man and his surroundings - the existential, real, pure, and tragically forgotten in modern society. The end result of his murals seeks to honor local communities rather than a tool for gentrification. Although to some the final piece feels only decorative, the structure of painted lines harbors a deeper meaning and message.
In the South of Italy, Pastel painted the facade of a large building with massive plants indigenous to Africa in order to symbolize native roots of people trying to immigrate to Europe. With more and more political conversations over topics such as this, Pastel is calling on action with this piece in particular to support those looking for a brighter future.
Pastel traveled to Perth, Australia where he painted a mural called “Idealism of Aboriginal Ngarluma”. The piece addresses the historical issue of Ngarluma people, the Original inhabitants of the coastal areas around Roebourne (West Pilbara Western Australia). Archaeological surveys claim that these people had been living in the area for more than 30,000 years, having a deep historical and spiritual connection to the land and nature there. According to the artist, the floral image is based on the brutal relationship between native communities and colonialism until 1971 when they finally started to be recognized with civil rights.
In Kiev, Ukraine Pastel created a mural, “Two Peasants” that is based on the history of the Makhnovist movement at the time of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The revolution in Ukraine was a libertarian revolution, and the workers and peasants (Black Army) fought both Tsarist reaction and Bolshevik domination. In February 1917, there was a Popular uprising in the Russian empire. The Tsar abdicated the principal political parties - most of them Socialist, and began to set up a crude parliamentary democracy, led by the Mensheviks. But Russia was a big, bleak, backward old empire that sprawled across five time zones, communication was bad; the uprisings continued. Radicals were released from prison, dissidents returned from exile, and ordinary people became increasingly aware of the possibilities of communal power. Peasants chased out the landowners, workers took over the factories and many organized themselves democratically through local mass meetings.
This year Pastel came to the Bay Area and painted a beautiful mural off the 880 Highway (Marina West Exit) in San Leandro. The mural “Costanoans” is an homage to a group of Native American people that lived on the Northern California Coast. When Spanish explorers and missionaries arrived in the late 18th century, the Ohlone (named Costanoans by the Spanish colony), inhabited the area along the coast from San Francisco Bay through Monterey Bay to the lower Salinas Valley.