Marcos LaFarga’s Funky Solo Exhibit Opens at Oakland’s Sticks + Stones Gallery

At first glance, Marcos LaFarga’s artwork doesn’t make you think of graffiti. But looking more closely, there are similarities. In his pieces, explosive, bold lettering spells out humoristic slogans like “Design is Dead,” “Misguided” and “Wisdom is Gold,” which are often coupled with realistic drawings that complement the words.

“In graffiti, there’s the word and then people do a character on the side,” LaFarga says. “Letters are rigid with clean lines, whereas the object has a lot of value and depth that is formed. It’s a contrast, it’s like the organic and the mechanical.”

Now, you can see the Bay Area-based LaFarga’s work at his new exhibit at Oakland’s Sticks + Stones Gallery. The show runs through April 3.

Contrast is the key to LaFarga’s work. While he may draw one word in a blocky san serif font, the following word is scripty or hand-written, and then a painterly figure adds a third level of contrast. But the idea is not to be conceptual; he intentionally puts these elements together as a graffiti artist would.

It isn’t a surprise that LaFarga’s work mimics graffiti because that’s the art he was raised on. Bay Area born and raised, LaFarga says he went through a disobedient streak in high school but art was always something he stuck with.

“The one thing I could do was graffiti, it was mischievous and rebellious, but it was still art and it kept my interest,” he says. “I always tried to perfect the craft of writing, writing your name and writing letters. I always had an interest in old classic modern advertising and illustration.”

This eventually led LaFarga to a degree in graphic design and illustration from California College of the Arts and a graphic design career. He got into ‘50s and ‘60s styles of graphic design, like what Pushpin studios made, and also contemporary font design, like the custom typographies that House Industries creates.

LaFarga says that although he loves using computers as tools. “To me, there’s a bigger fascination with things that are done by hand,” he says. “There’s certain things that aren’t perfect, there’s nuances. There’s always that human touch aspect to it.”

More of LaFarga’s work can be seen on his blog. His exhibit runs through April 3 at Sticks + Stones Gallery, 815 Broadway, Old Oakland.

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