Fresh Paint

By Seth Combs
Photos by Stacy Keck

(Published in the August 2010 issue)

Anyone visiting San Diego in the past month might have left our fair city thinking it was the street-art capital of the world. July saw the opening of four different local exhibitions devoted to the art form, which comprises pieces developed in public spaces, often without permission from the city or property owner.

The most notable of these exhibitions is Viva La Revolución: A Dialogue With the Urban Landscape. On display at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego downtown through January 2, 2011, it brings together 20 of the world’s top street artists, including Shepard Fairey, whose most recognizable works are his “Obey” emblem of pro-wrestler Andre the Giant and his “Hope” poster of President Obama.

Today, Fairey lives in Los Angeles, but back in the late ‘90s, he got his start using the walls of Downtown San Diego as his canvas. That’s when he met Gerardo “Acamonchi” Yepiz, an established street artist best known for his stencil of assassinated Mexican Presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio. Acomonchi had posted the image on the Internet, and the public response was dramatic-so many people downloaded, cut-out and then used the stencil, that Colosio’s face could be seen spray-painted on walls throughout the streets of Mexico
and Latin America.

Fairey and Acomonchi worked together a lot back then, painting and installing art all over the San Diego. When Fairey moved to LA and became commercially successful, Acamonchi stuck around San Diego, traveling back and forth between Tijuana to create images for Grammy-nominated electronic band, Nortec Collective. With the help of friends, he also set up music and art shows in abandoned buildings on both sides of the border.

“It was an exchange of ideas,” says Acamonchi. “There was a lot of good things going on in San Diego and TJ at the time, and I just tried to help bring the two places together.”

Today, street art has become part of mainstream culture. And with the success of the recent documentary, Exit Through The Gift Shop, the time is ripe for Acamonchi to be recognized as one of the medium’s local heroes. His new show-a collaborative exhibition with fellow artist Sergio Hernandez, called Acamonchi vs. Surge 2010, which opens August 14 at Thumbprint Gallery in North Park-represents his new work on more conventional (non-street) canvases. But despite the transitions away from illegal street art, and the fact that he’s done graphic design work for MTV, Pepsi and Adidas, Acomonchi remains true to his roots.

“I’ve really stuck to my punk-rock values,” says Acamonchi. “Do it yourself, do it right, be competitive, do a great job and keep it legit. Keep it real.”