Pablo De La Fuente: An artist for and by the people

Working in the office of Chile's Canal 13 for four months was the worst experience of artist Pablo De La Fuente’s life. For someone so liberated from the holds of mainstream work life, a 9-to-5 job with a boss and a cubicle wasn’t going to last long. “There were no aspirations,” De La Fuente said flatly.

His resistance to an “ordinary” way of life is evidenced by his appearance. Pablo De La Fuente walks with an artist’s swagger. His bold-rimmed glasses accentuate the braided ponytail that trails from beneath his hat; his Hawaiian-print shirt hangs partially unbuttoned and his high-top sneakers have neon laces.

De La Fuente, a theater design professor at the University of Chile, does a little bit of this and a little bit of that when it comes to art. But no matter what medium he uses, he nearly always fills his work with a deeper, often sociopolitical message.

“I want my art to be beautiful and precious and not something that you can throw away,” said De La Fuente.

The artist, who graduated from U. Chile with a degree in theater design, now teaches classes, tours with his theater company and designs posters for artists around Santiago.

And although De La Fuente is known for his work in various national and international plays, on a local level, his name is iconic for his graphic design work that can be seen pasted throughout Santiago Centro.

His company, La Patriotico Interesante, returned in August of this year from touring in France and Spain for two months with their production of Kadogo: Niño Soldado (Kadogo: Child soldier), for which he designed all visuals. The play tells the story of the child soldier on a global level and is a metaphor for many youth in Chile and Latin America.

Nowadays, theater design tends to occupy most of De La Fuente’s time. Between set design and construction, lighting and costumes, teatro callejero (street theater) design keeps De La Fuente juggling his artistic outlets.

“Street theater,” besides often taking place on a street, refers to the fact that it isn’t “theater for theater performers or a specific, elite audience,” but for the average person. “It’s theater for people from my neighborhood, for my family,” De La Fuente said, referring to his middle-class roots in Recoleta, Santiago.

“You can’t do street theater without doing political theater or without wanting to change something [in society],” said De La Fuente.

And that’s a lot of what De La Fuente wants to do--inspire people to change things. Through depictions of people and their raw emotions, be it pure happiness, deep despair, angst or jubilant celebration, De La Fuente’s graphic art has a way of capturing a single message and portraying it in a way that everyone can understand.

“I want to be inspiring. I want to move people and inspire them and mobilize them and make them want to create,” he said.

In fact, most of De La Fuente’s art is aimed at the average Santiago citizen whose opinions and political beliefs mirror the majority. Injustice and popular culture, he says, are the two biggest political themes in his artwork. Following Kadogo's European tour, De La Fuente created a series of posters featuring the faces of Mapuches killed in the most recent conflict over indigenous rights with the word “RESISTE!” (Resist) sprawled across the poster.

“When I got back from Europe, the large majority of people knew close to nothing of the Mapuche conflict; they didn’t care,” said De La Fuente. “Really, this is propaganda. I don’t want people to throw stones, but to go to their neighborhoods and mobilize themselves.”

Apart from his pro bono work for the Mapuche cause, De La Fuente’s graphic art normally centers around posters for bands and their upcoming concerts.

Most often, De La Fuente works with Santiago bands like Manka Saya, La Mano Ajena and Juana Fe to design unique posters that not only publicize but, more often than not, carry political statements.

Pedro Aceituno is a member of Manka Saya and has known De La Fuente for five years as a friend and as a work partner. Of about eight posters De La Fuente has designed for Manka Saya, Aceituno says he has liked all of them.

“I’ve never disliked anything of his. Fuck, never. It’s all good,” said Aceituno. “He knows what bothers us and what we like.”
At just 26 years old, De La Fuente has an entire career ahead of him. His art is his passion and self-described obligation.

“His art is powerful, impactful and potent,” said Aceituno. “They’re going to make books about his art.”

Check out De La Fuente’s Flickr page for examples of his graphic art and photography, and stay in touch with the University of Chile’s theater department for upcoming examples of his theater design.

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