If Mexico stands out for one thing in the history of 20th century art, it’s mural painting. But Mexico’s singular contribution to this monumental genre doesn’t start and end with Diego Rivera or José Clemente Orozco, and a new generation of graffiti artists has been breathing fresh life into this storied tradition with novel twists on their country’s visual culture. Zapotec artist Irving Cano is one of the most visible representatives of this new wave of muralists making waves across Mexico and beyond, and apparently some folks halfway across the world in Dubai have taken note.
Cano has been invited along with 15 other street artists from around the globe to cover the bare walls of the City of Gold with vibrant murals representing disparate cultures from Venezuela to Ukraine. As Mexico’s only representative, Cano will be bringing his unique Zapotec-inspired aesthetic to the project, which he forged over years bombing the walls of his native Oaxaca as part of the Collective Chiquitraca.
From his origins as a small-town graffiti artist in Oaxaca’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Cano eventually began moonlighting as a muralist and art teacher while he studied information technology in Cuernavaca, Morelos. After years hustling a day job, Cano spun off his artwork into a clothing brand, and brought the iconic colors and imagery of Tehuantepec to t-shirts and bamboo sunglasses that are now sold across the world.
Now it seems Cano’s global name recognition is about to get a huge boost, as he brings a little taste of southern Mexico to the walls of the Middle East’s most glamorous metropolis.