For four years now, Galeria Delbarrio has mounted its comics series, which in its latest edition includes paintings, drawings and sculptures by more than 20 Peruvian artists. I first visited the ever colorful and lively art space back in 2011 and the gallery continues to be on the rise, if we are to take the crowded opening of the exhibit last week as testament to its growing popularity. “The art market is growing in a time of changing paradigms here in Peru,” says *Gabriela Tineo*, founder of the gallery. “We have to reinvent ourselves; we are here to sell but more to exhibit and celebrate the talent we have in Peru.”
Comics are full of heroes, “but in this country that is full of difficulties, the heroes are everywhere, in the streets,” says Tineo. Indeed, the exhibit is dedicated to Peru and its people who struggle and strive day in and day out; to its cultures, history and artists. One way or another, the artists who are part of the exhibit have taken to interpret and reimagine Peru, with fantastical, bizarre and grotesque twists and turns.
Take for example the work by artist Renzo Gonzalez. “The print above, ‘Domingo’ [Sunday], is a vision of Larcomar taken over by zombies,” Gonzalez tells us. In the digitalized print that’s in black and white, save for the yellow-toned faces of its protagonists, you have Larcomar invaded by families and kids in a sanguine, yet gory disposition. “I work with sketches then transform them to digital. I already have an idea of the colors and everything in my head before working on the digital print,’ Gonzalez says of his process. His second painting, ‘El Gallinazo’, which appropriately translates to Black Vulture, is a brief comic strip that transforms your regular ol’ wachiman [watch man]into a crime-fighting hero of the night.
The details are what make the story come alive in comics, and we see this quality in the works by Gonzalez and other artists in the exhibit. In ‘Las Vampiras de Pachacamac’ [The Vampires of Pachacamac], a comic strip by Gary Villafuerte, Peru is taken to another, vintage-like alternate universe. Villafuerte tells us, “I’ve been working on it for two and a half years now, and it stems from the idea that there’s a non-existent comic from 1965 in Peru. Pages from that comic are found in a library, that’s why the esthetic has an antiquated feel.”
The fantastical nature of comics allows for these artists to comment on current social issues and historical anecdotes that have shaped the country in numerous ways. “The vampires live in an alternate world. It’s a parallel world, a parallel Peru. I think sci-fi and comics can have a reflective message of what we currently see. But it’s a paradoxical universe, so all these beliefs are liberated; mummies, zombies, aliens, and characters from Inca mythology, from sci-fi; all these characters co-exist and these conflicts occur,” says Villafuerte.
A more humorous take on comics, though no less thought provoking, is the large installation of Felix the Cat by artist Fidel. Lying on a recreated living room space is Felix, with a gun in one hand, a scattered letter from his feline lover on the other, and blood staining the violet colored wall – which also holds a framed photo of the lovely feline perpetrator. “It’s a way to understand death through plastic arts,” says Fidel.
The letter contains the lyrics of a song by Peruvian singer Lucha Reyes. “It began with a project where you could work her songs or her image. I worked with one of her songs, ‘Aunque me odies’,’ says Fidel. Criollo music makes you want to get out and dance with your partner, but the lyrics of the song are something different! It says, “hate me,” etc. etc. There’s the tragedy of the lyrics contrasted with the musicality of the song. It’s a sad song, but very danceable.”
With this and his other installations, Fidel touches upon death, a topic that is hard for many to discuss, or to even recognize as a fact. For him, the creative process of addressing these issues comes from a personal place, an event that marked his childhood and took him to the U.S. for some years. From his experiences emerge the inspiration for his work, as well as a delight for enjoying life’s wonders and extremities. Our time here is limited, and that should be our impetus to love, to create, to live and laugh and experience.
The exhibit will be on display until the end of June.
Cruz 148, Lima 9 Chorrillos, Lima, PeruMake your way to Galeria Delbarrio to check out ‘Comics Limited Edition No. 4’