AP PHOTOS: Buenos Aires a street art Mecca

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By ALMUDENA CALATRAVA, Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES. Argentina (AP) — In most major cities, street artists create their works under cover of darkness, spray-painting their graffiti quickly to elude arrest. Not so in Buenos Aires, where painters have found a surplus of empty walls to splash their colors on, building owners who readily consent to having their walls painted, and a local government that has subsidized some of the urban murals.

Buenos Aires' welcoming attitude has made it one of the world's top capitals for international street muralists, drawing well-known urban artists such as Blu of Italy, Jef Aerosol of France, Aryz of Spain, Roa of Belgium, and Ron English of the United States.

International artists come here to spray-paint graffiti as well as other styles and methods of street art on the walls of plazas and buildings because local authorities have shown themselves receptive to the creations, said Matt Fox-Tucker, an Englishman who created the website buenosairesstreetart.com, focusing on the city's urban murals.

While it's illegal to paint on the side of a building in the public right of way without an owners' permission, artists can do pretty much as they please with an owner's OK.

"In most cities in Europe this is not possible and the owner of the building needs planning permission or consent from the local authority to alter the appearance of the building," said Fox-Tucker, who leads tours of the local street art several times a week.

The urban artists generally go door to door seeking approval from building owners before starting a mural. Owners usually agree, especially if the mural of aerosol, acrylic or oil paint will cover up political slogans and other graffiti already painted there.

With an abundance of unoccupied and abandoned structures and dividing walls between buildings, there are plenty of spaces for urban artists to create their work.

Blu painted one of the city's better known pieces of street art on the side of an enormous concrete building once scheduled for demolition in the Villa Urquiza. The 2007 painting shows a giant baby on his back, holding a pill in his right hand. White, black, red and orange dominate the work showing the inside of the child's body invaded by machinery and people pushing wheelbarrows and performing other tasks, alluding to the exploitation and corruption of human beings.

Local painters, including Argentine Martin Ron, also take advantage of the relatively lax rules for street art, and they consider the traffic patterns of cars and pedestrians to get the best exposure for their work.

"The paintings are seen in the most routine" of circumstances, said Ron, such as the commute from home to work. "The works take you by surprise."

"For those who are interested, it helps you interpret and discover things," said the artist, who has painted a series of murals of popular idols such as soccer player Carlos Tevez.

A towering Tevez rendered in turquoise and white, his long dark hair flowing behind him, looms over a soccer field in the humble Fuerte Apache apartment complex where the athlete grew up. The mural serves as "a stimulus and motivation" for local kids who play soccer, Ron said.

Along with fellow painters Lean Frizzera and Emy Mariani, Ron also recreated the legendary "Hand of God" goal scored against England by Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City. That mural, which shows Maradona thrusting his left arm into the air, stretches about 30 meters long and six meters high under a commuter train bridge.

The murals of both soccer players were subsidized by local authorities to spruce up the neighborhoods around them.

Martin's other creations include a smiling version of celebrated writer Ernesto Sabato and a powerful rendering of retired erotic film star Isabel Sarli.

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