While art and music communities have limited interaction, the symbiosis between these groups is apparent in the work of Austin street artist, Federico Archuleta. Known as El Federico, this artist combines elements of graffiti with stencil art techniques to produce musically influenced murals found on many Austin music venues and record shops.
Starting first in his job doing window displays for the now defunct Tower Records, El Federico began creating large-scale stencil art on the storefront. His first well known piece was a portrait of Johnny Cash featuring Heaven and Hell motifs. Eventually the storefront became covered with El Federico’s work including portraits of ZZ Top, Buddy Holly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. As El Federico’s fame grew, so did his commissions. Today, collections of his work are featured on the walls of Austin’s infamous Hole in the Wall Club; the used record store, Cheapo Discs; and in dive bars such as the Legendary White Swan Lounge. While most of his work is painted on exterior walls, the Hole in the Wall stage is decorated with a version of the Johnny Cash portrait and the South by Southwest Music Conference owns a number of portable pieces. Austin’s latino music festival, the Pachanga Fest, also decorates its venue with El Federico’s art.
El Federico does not cite artists as his major influence, rather he believes that rock n’ roll and rock n’ roll album covers are his major influence. He likes to work in public spaces because of the instant feedback he gets from passersby, and much of the material for his art comes also from the streets as he like to use ‘dumpster dive cardboard’ to create his stencils. El Federico says that “its something within mankind to express ourselves on walls, and stencil art was originally done by cavemen who would put dye in their mouths and spit it out over their hands to leave impressions of their hands on walls.” His desire to put his art out on streets and bars is to help break the mindset held by most people that art is only found in museums.
Photos by Steve Hopson