Spraying Political Beliefs: Hugo Style in “Extra” by Jennifer Patino

Posted on 06-02-2010
Reporter: by Jennifer Patiño

Spraying Political Beliefs

Hugo Style designs messages about immigration, poverty and racism through graffiti



Photo: Abel Arciniega | EXTRA

by Jennifer Patiño

Hugo García, also known as Hugo Style, wants you to read the writing on the wall – literally. He’s a Chicago graffiti artist who sprays his politically passionate messages throughout local Latino neighborhoods.

Hugo Style, who is of Guatemalan descent, describes himself as a ‘city boy with a third world upbringing.’ His family’s experiences with poverty and immigration have given him a unique perspective on life in the U.S. that deeply influences his art.

In a city accustomed to Mayor Richard Daley’s graffiti blasters and where selling spray paint is outlawed within the city limits, Hugo Style’s art is not archetypal graffiti. He doesn’t tag his name all over the city for recognition.

While he has a background in graphic design and experience creating ads, his murals are nothing like corporate logos. What Hugo Style promotes are his political beliefs. He creates a unique fusion of graffiti and graphic design that subverts traditional notions of self-promotion in both fields.

In contrast to more mainstream recognized graffiti artists, who focus on aesthetics over substance, Hugo Style sees his work in the medium as part of a growing folk art that is returning the art form to its original political connotations.

“There is a difference between someone trying to create a graffiti piece showing that holding a gun is cool. One of my pieces shows [that] gun[s] kill people in the community, kill Mexicans trying to cross over the border for a better life,” he said. “You can’t help the fact that in the poorest neighborhoods, people write on the wall and say the most realistic messages.”

He designs messages about immigration rights, ending poverty and racism  in a visually attention-getting way and makes them easily accessible. He painted his mural “Corporatism Equals Slavery,” of a red greedy corporate devil in the predominantly African-American Hyde Park. The placement of this mural was intended to create a nonverbal alliance between the African-American and Latino community.

The theme of invading space is a major component of Hugo Style’s art. Physical space, whether the human body, the community or even a country itself are all locations of oppression. Invasion of Latin American countries by American corporations causes what the Minutemen refer to as an invasion of immigrants.

Through his use of graffiti, Hugo Style asks the viewers of his work to answer what their own roles are within these physical spaces.

Hugo Style’s upbringing gave him an insight into the lives of the poor and undocumented in the U.S. that has deeply influenced both the aesthetics and subject matter of his work.

According to Hugo Style, his father gave him his first image of political resistance. His father was a student protestor against the atrocities of Guatemala’s civil war and could no longer stay in the country.

In the U.S., however, his family encountered issues of gang violence and dire poverty that Hugo Style began to see as no different from the third world situations that his Guatemalan relatives continue to encounter.

He has participated in the May Day marches and documents it, but there’s no denying that expressing his political views through art is his first passion.

Hugo Style has plans to collaborate more on murals around Chicago and plans to have future exhibitions at the 54B Gallery in Pilsen.

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