Zosen (AKA Zosen Bandido) is a street artist from Buenos Aires. He began painting graffiti in 1989, as an 11-year-old skateboarder.
Zosen moved to Barcelona with his family in 1990. His unmistakable psychedelic aesthetic, with its vividly rich colours, tribal symbolism and punkish imagery, hides a political intent crucial to its comprehension.
Coming from a background of skate culture, punk, and the DIY movement (echoing the history of his common collaborator 3TTMan, see pp.116-120), as well as being a key authority on the history of European graffiti through his years ensconced in its traditions, he fuses these influences into an illustrative and iconographical mélange, one espousing the anarchistic ethic he so strongly holds. Zosen has thus added a straight edged, passionately activistic stance to the highly colourful, naïve aesthetic Barcelona is so famous for; connecting the anti-establishment nature of graffiti with the subcultural ethos of countercultural social movements in more general, he has formed a double-edged style as genuinely oppositional as ornamental, dissensual and decorative in equal measure.
Moving to Barcelona to escape the legacy of the dictatorship (a period which he believes strongly affected his later artistic output), he continued painting graffiti, becoming more involved with the distinctly European mode of hip-hop culture; merging his love of thrash and punk with this new style, the skate, hip-hop, and punk aesthetics – all of which were governed by the do-it-yourself spirit – became ever evident within his classic graffiti output. Becoming a key figure in the Barcelona graffiti scene during the 1990s, the overtly disputational, defiantly political attitude of Zosen’s work became visible not only through the deviant characters and images he included within his pieces, but also through the textual messages they contained (messages such as Dejame salir de vuestro consumismo de mierda – “Let me out of your shitty consumerism”, or Ningun ejercito defiende la paz – “No army defends peace”).
By the end of the decade however, Zosen’s work had become more experimental, moving toward a purely image-based state and a more acute sense of colour. As part of the renowned ONG collective [Ovejas Negras or “Black Sheep”), alongside artists like Debens (see pp. 116-118), Kafre, Maze, Oldie, Pez, Sae and Skum, he thus started to find his authentic aesthetic, the collaborative energy of the group pushing him to new heights.
Building his own visual language then, a primitivist, carnivalesque compendium, Zosen’s work continued to tackle the themes that had previously preoccupied him – anarchism, animal liberation, veganism – yet now through a more potent, direct technique. Working either with classically primordial imagery, combining an ostensibly naïve symbolism with a real significance, or a text based figurality, utilising quotations from figures such as anti-civilization philosopher John Zerzan, he thus forges a unique relation between his ethical and aesthetical ideals. And just like the Animal Bandido clothing label he now runs with designer Clàudia Font, what is key for Zosen is to retain a committed approach whichever medium he works through. He has thus created a unique polychromatic, dissentient art, an anarcho-primitivist aesthetic refracted through a graffiti tinted lens.
Here, he interviews himself for River’s Edge.
Give us a brief history of your career – where you’re from, your background,etc.
I was born in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and moved to Barcelona as a teenager. In 1990 I started to paint graffiti after being doing skate for a while. Since then I never stop painting on the streets and after on different studios. I’m travelling through different cities of the world doing my art.
How do your larger scale projects come about?
Normally people contact me to paint in Mural Festivals or outdoor projects. I paint also big walls myself. I don’t use to sketch the design for the mural and I improvise a lot. I like to use spray cans and acrylic paint too. Cherry pickers, platforms, scaffolds, ladders, everything works for my murals.
How does foreign travel inspire and inform your work? Do you have the opportunity to work abroad often?
I use to travel often in Europe also North America, South America and Japan. I like to travel to learn from new cultures and traditions. All the folklore or popular art from ancient cultures is a strong inspiration for my work. I have a project called Nomadismo Urbano where I talk about my experiences on different travels and my passion for the history of the cities: http://zosendiaries.tumblr.com/
What surface do you prefer and why?
I love walls/murals because the scale and the impact, I have the chance to transform the skin of the city. Also paint canvas and paper is a good experience for me. I’m silkscreen print and riso print lover. I appreciate to touch paper and work with acrylic on canvas. Every surface have their own magic.
Dream project? If you could go anywhere, paint anything, no budget restraints – where would you go & what would you do?
Continue doing what I like to do, paint and travel. I want to do more projects in Latinoamerica and go back to my roots. Work and learn from traditional artists.
MAPPING THE CITY – WATCH SHORT PROMO TEASER HERE: http://vimeo.com/129415300