Quick on the draw - an interview with Lapiztola

24 Apr 2013
Case study: 
Quick on the draw - an interview with Lapiztola
Alongside the ongoing life of its traditional cultures and crafts, and its notable contemporary painters, Oaxaca is home to a fertile street art movement. Its collectives are closely associated with the political uprising that took place over seven months in 2006. What began as a teachers’ strike grew into a wider revolt against political corruption and acts of repression, fed by a desire for autonomy. Among the collectives born during that time is Lapiztola, its name a play on the Spanish words lapiz (pencil) and pistola (pistol). As two of its members prepare to visit Malmö and Stockholm as artists-intransience in the EITC project, Oyuki Matsumoto found out more about their story. (This is a reposting of an interview from Performing Pictures autumn 2012 newsletter)

Can you tell us about the history of Lapiztola, who you are and what you are doing?

Lapiztola was formed in 2006, starting with Rosario and Roberto who are both graphic designers. Yankel joined us later and he’s an architect. We started out making silkscreen prints for shirts, posters and wallpapers for the street, then we started to make stencils. Now we do both.

In another interview, you mentioned the political unrest in Oaxaca in 2006, how that made you start working together. How has this political conflict influenced your work and the work of other artists in the community? 

2006 was a watershed for many of those who lived through the conflict in Oaxaca, because although there were many divisions, this conflict ended a number of older social and cultural schemes. Collectives started to form and this meant that a lot of artists started to share their work and be less individualistic. On the streets, it was not only about signing your work but creating a dialogue with the people, based on images. A lot of the graphic work that was produced at this time was made as a denunciation. Today, it is still in the same line, but about general themes.

How has your work developed between then and now?

We’ve learned a lot from the criticism of people who have seen the images on the streets. When we started creating them, Oaxaca was in a state of ferment. Now that everything is calmer, we try to analyse our work a little more, studying what we really want to say. Our process is a bit slower now, just as it is more difficult for a collective to make a decision than for one. We also look at what other artists are doing when they come to Oaxaca and how we can feed off this.

Where do you find inspiration for your work? From a desire to tell stories?

Part of our work is based on the social, actions, protests and stories of the everyday. Sometimes understandably sometimes not. If the message is understood, that’s good. If not, it is one more image on the road. Can we can talk a little about the techniques you use? The techniques for stencil and screen printing are very similar, but the process is different. We often try to combine the two: we will make a wall paper for the street, then renew the composition by painting a stencil on it. The stencil technique is a bit more basic, while the screen printing is a bit more complex, as it requires some chemical processes for their results. In Mexico, the chemicals are still a bit toxic, compared to the chemicals used in other countrieswhich are more environmentally friendly.

What kind of creative process do you go through before making a piece?
The most difficult thing is to summarise a story with a single image. That's the hardest part of the process, agreeing on how to do the piece. With a stencil, we often shoot some photos, then generate images that help us with the composition. We try to create a piece with the ideas we brought together, then find a technical solution for it.