"Namaste" from Brocoli: Nov. 7-11

In a cramped gallery space on the hip street of Lastarria, Brocoli co-founders Lucas Ballocchi and Eugenio Ramirez are hurrying with last minute preparations. Their first solo exhibition, “Namaste” de Brocoli, is running slightly behind, but perhaps is it the Zen nature of the display that keeps them from panicking.

 Photo by Eileen Chong
Photo by Eileen Chong

The images that form the exhibition —painstakingly drawn, passed through the computer, then cut from vinyl and placed upon glass and lotus paper brought from Thailand—all depict the round and fluffy characters, such as cartoony Buddha figures and Hindu gods, that are Brocoli's trademark. The exhibit isn’t so much an art show as an overall presentation of the company, which describes itself as “a design studio dedicated to character design, illustration, and custom toys.” There is no carefully wrought artist statement; when asked about the inspiration driving the collection, Ballocchi shrugs and answers vaguely, “Life. And yoga.”

 Photo by Eileen Chong
Photo by Eileen Chong

In the context of the company’s creation, this laidback response becomes profound. There are, after all, so many ways in which Brocoli might have never been. Having lived in the U.S. for seven years, Ballocchi found himself stranded back in Chile two days after 9/11, where a weeklong visit turned into an indefinite stay. He then met co-founder Eugenio Ramirez in college during a group project. In a single stroke of terrible, wonderful luck, their computers—and everything with it—were stolen.

“We already had an idea in mind, but this was the push,” laughs Ballocchi. “We broke away from computers and started doing everything by hand.”

 Lucas Ballocchi (left) and Eugenio Ramirez with their creations
Lucas Ballocchi (left) and Eugenio Ramirez with their creations

This handmade, limited edition aspect is key; with the exception of mass consumption items like stickers, the two designers never make more than 50 of a single product. “We don’t want to give people something that isn’t special,” says Ballocchi, holding up an intentionally unfortunate-looking plushie that could pass as the bastard child of Takashi Murakami and an Uglydoll. The team, however, hasn’t ruled out the idea of wider production.

“We don’t want to lose our essence,” says Ballochi, "but we know that Chile is small. We want to branch out, see where that takes us.” So far it is taking the designing duo to Miami, where they have a show in December and a live graffiti presentation next year.

 Photo by Eileen Chong
Photo by Eileen Chong

While Ballocchi doesn’t cite any particular influences (“Mucho Cartoon Network,” Ramirez injects briefly), he does mention Kidrobot as a sort of inspiration. In Ballocchi’s words, the lightning bolt upon seeing a friend’s Kidrobot toy went something along the lines of, “You can be a designer and make toys!”

“Basically, we love toys,” says Ballocchi. Both he and Ramirez are avid collectors. While their initial dream of creating a line of plastic vinyl toys has yet to come to fruition, the two are hardly discouraged. Neither should they be, judging by the initial wave of visitors. But with the products being as quirky as they are, who do they see buying them? Ballochi smiles.

"People like us."

“Namaste” de Brocoli runs until Friday, November 11th. Exhibit hours are 11:00-14:00 and 16:30-19:00.

“Namaste” de Brocoli
Galeria Piso 2
Lastarria 29, 2nd floor

www.brocoli.cl

Access by metro: Line 1 to Universidad Catolica

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