Binational showcase highlights street art in pandemic times

"Untitled," by San Diego artist Fifi Martinez
“Untitled,” by San Diego artist Fifi Martinez, is one of two large murals located on San Ysidro Boulevard across from the Front Gallery in San Ysidro.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Muralists in San Ysidro and Tijuana participate in binational exhibits


The pandemic is preventing people from visiting galleries, so why not bring art to the streets?

It was under such a premise that the binational exhibition of urban art Muros/Walls was born, organized by the Front Gallery from Casa Familiar and the Municipal Institute of Art and Culture of Tijuana (IMAC). The collection brings together the talents of San Diegan and Tijuanan muralists.

The original idea was for muralists from South County to cross the border to paint on walls in Tijuana and vice versa.

However, this exchange was cut short by land travel restrictions imposed by the Mexican and U.S. governments to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In San Ysidro, artists Jorge Mendoza, Juan Carlos Galindo, Fifí Martínez, Michelle Guerrero and Mary Jhun participated. In Tijuana, Ariana Escudero, Paulo Villamil and Javier Farrera joined.

On the U.S. side, they took as their canvas the walls of various exteriors on San Ysidro Boulevard, with the exception of a mural that was painted inside the Front Gallery, in such a way that it was visible from the outside.

Artist Michelle Guerrero also known as Mrbbaby recently finish this mural
Artist Michelle Guerrero, also known as Mrbbaby, recently finish this mural, called “Quetzalcoatl falls in love with the moon” at El Rincón Restaurant.
(Alejandro Tamayo/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“We wanted to continue our work for the community in cultural spaces without the need to invite people into the gallery,” said Francisco Morales, director of the Front Gallery in San Ysidro.

It was easy to convince the owners of the five buildings where the exteriors were painted.

Christopher Hernandez, who grew up in San Ysidro, owns three of them. He said the art benefits the community in these uncertain times. He wants to keep the art on the walls for as long as possible.

Juan Carlos Galindo, an urban artist originally from Tijuana and a resident of San Diego, painted a collage on the walls of a gallery in San Ysidro that can be seen from the road.

“Art should always be displayed in some way on the streets to facilitate people’s appreciation and inspire new generations of artists,” he said.

Juan Carlos Galindo poses next to his mural in the Front Gallery
Juan Carlos Galindo, next to his mural on the Front Gallery. The art can be seen from San Ysidro Boulevard.
(Alexandra Mendoza/U-T en Español)

Mary Jhun, a surrealist artist from Paradise Hills, is about to complete her work on the walls of an apartment building across the street from the gallery.

She didn’t arrive with a planned design, she said, letting her creativity flow once she became familiar with the site.

Mary Jhun, in front of her mural on the NOLA apartment building in San Ysidro.
(Alexandra Mendoza/U-T en Español)

As in many of her works, she uses female faces, this time around the main entrance to the building.

“While it is beautiful to appreciate art in an interior setting, for me there is something more endearing when it is done for everyone,” she said.

Murals by artists Paulo Villamil (left) and Ariana Escudero (right) in Tijuana's Central Zone
Murals by artists Paulo Villamil (left) and Ariana Escudero (right) in Tijuana’s Central Zone as part of the binational exhibition.
(Cortesía IMAC)

In Tijuana, the murals were painted in Callejón El Travieso, between Second and Third streets in the downtown area.

Their inauguration took place Sept. 17 in the presence of officials and the artists themselves.

Mario Echeveste, gallery coordinator with IMAC, said space was saved so that once conditions allow, the American muralists can use it as initially planned.

One of two large murals located on San Ysidro Blvd across from the Front Gallery in San Ysidro.
One of two large murals on San Ysidro Blvd across from the Front Gallery in San Ysidro. The works are part of the Walls / Murals Cross Border Urban Art binational exhibition made in collaboration with the Municipal Institute of Art and Culture of Tijuana.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)