This Artist Spray Paints 90s Cartoons All Over Argentina's Wine Country
SinFiltro is bringing attention to an underground scene in Argentina’s wine capital
Imagine a Napa Valley wine capital of the world — except relatively affordable, Spanish-speaking, and in South America. That’s the magic of Mendoza, Argentina.
Known for cleanliness and tranquility along the country’s western border, the area attracts glitzy, refined crowds from both sides of the hemisphere who like to spend a few days sipping Malbecs at the foot of snow-capped mountains before moving on to bigger destinations in the region like Buenos Aires or Patagonia.
Like many, I found myself there with plans to organize a series of wine tours and be fancy because, well, there’s apparently not much else to do there. Everything I researched pointed towards the beautiful valleys beneath the Andes, filled with quaint wine bodegas and fine outdoor cuisine, reachable by a cab ride just beyond the province’s urban hub.
I began my journey by exploring downtown on foot, in search of a visitor’s center for more information — to be clear, I literally have no clue about wining and dining, and usually stick to bars and alleys that remind me of my Bay Area upbringing.
But after wandering less than two blocks from my Airbnb, I got distracted by an unexpected sight on the side of a newsstand. It was a simple, universal declaration of childhood nostalgia: a colorful, life-sized rendition of Reggie Rocket (from Rocket Power) slurping purple juice.
Having traveled around Latin America for half a year, it was my first time seeing something in public that so distinctly reminded me of my own youth. It was as if a local artist had borrowed a shared memory from a universally-loved Nickelodeon programming schedule and reinvented it to fit the contemporary context of Argentinian coolness. Captivated, I crossed the busy street, took some photos, and kept it pushing with my basic tourist script.
Three blocks later I was sidetracked again — this time with a depiction of Gerald from Hey Arnold!, detailed exactly from the famous New York-based cartoon as if the original creators had been there to paint him; except he was noticeably counting a stack of U.S. dollars — a dope touch. At that point, I completely ditched my plans and began to obsess with knowing more about the slew of quirky cartoons that seemed to appear at every other intersection by that point.
I surfed the side streets that day, coming across at least 5 of my Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network favorites, usually with some inventive twist. I found Arnold with his big football head, painted like he was inside an Instagram post with a ridiculous number of likes. A few steps later I saw Reptar, holding a bouquet of flowers in his hands as if he had just exited the nearby floral shop and was in a rush to meet someone, perhaps at the busy park around the corner where lovers displayed PDA on max. Whoever this artist was had cleverly integrated Latin America’s IRL setting with U.S. pop culture in a way that sprung his art to life. It somehow felt as if the characters were suddenly real and living as our neighbors.
Of course, I snooped for the artist’s tag — SinFiltro (“NoFilter”) — and so began my rabbit hole into the unknown world of Mendoza’s vibrant street art.
Birra House is a hangout on the main Arístides Villanueva strip where younger crowds gather to escape the sleepiness of a mostly suburban, if not rural, surrounding. House and jungle music blasts from inside darkly-lit establishments while sidewalk patios fill with alternative and creative Mendocino students from the nearby university.
Because SinFiltro includes his IG handle on each painting, it was easy to pinpoint him, and after sending a message that explained my interest, he told me to meet him at Birra. Before I knew it, we were drinking beers (turns out they drink more than wine here), eating Argentinian-style pizzas (distinct with green olives on every slice), and discussing the history of the region’s street art with his squad of childhood friends — some artists, others just there to hang.
According to him and his crew — a collective of five graffiti artists known as Los Asfalticos (“The Asphalt Boys”), who had painted the entire interior of the popular venue we were at — Mendoza’s street art scene had exploded a few years prior and was on the rise. It all began underground, literally.
“Mendoza is perfect for graffiti because we have lots of ditches where we can paint for hours, uninterrupted by police,” SinFiltro told me in Spanish. “That’s how I started out, in 2011.”
It was true. I’d noticed the city had a weird abundance of small concrete ditches, known as “zanjas.” Think of the L.A. River, but much tinier, and running along major avenues and sidewalks in every direction. According to members of the Asfalticos, these ditches are not common in Argentina’s cities and provided a unique opportunity to refine their passion to paint outdoors while networking with other artists.
“A few years ago, we just started organizing barbecue hangouts for the neighborhoods,” SinFiltro explained. “We would invite a few people but hundreds would find out and show up. We just painted for the entire day down there. Everyone was welcome — our younger siblings, grandparents, artists from other cities, just hanging out, eating food, having fun, understand?”
A college-trained art student, SinFiltro honed his craft over many years in the various street canals, showing me photos on his phone of his earliest work. He had clearly changed his style over the years, but one element remained — he had a knack for obsessive themes. One year he was captivated by cartoon pigs, using them as a signature he’d tag everywhere (and which he still uses as his moniker that you can find in many places if you pay attention). Then, he became interested with Sphinx cats, throwing those up around the city for a minute, too. Eventually, in 2018, he landed on the concept of reinventing his childhood memories by painting recognizable characters that had grabbed his attention on TV, and which now dominated the downtown area’s most visible spaces for street art.
“I started with the unimportant characters at first. You know, characters who had only appeared in one or two episodes, like the Pigeon Man [from Hey Arnold!],” he told me. When I asked him why, he asserted that he wanted to bring attention to those who were forgotten and overlooked — the supporting cast rather than the stars of the show.
It represented, unintentionally, a metaphor for him, his city, and perhaps for graffiti writers everywhere on the map: serving as underappreciated cast members for the main attraction.
As an unknown artist, SinFiltro painted tunnels in the night, while by day he worked a regular job in an area that bustled with vineyard tourism, where unknowing outsiders came to enjoy the riches of the Argentinian countryside before returning to wherever they came from, perhaps never even noticing the talent of artists like him and his crewmates during their stay. But locals, especially those in the know, seemed to love him. He had an air of stardom, with people greeting him excitedly, and his phone kept blowing up with texts throughout the night. It was impossible to escape the influence he had on the local scene (a few feet from where we sat, one of his tags — this time from Pink Panther — stared at us).
Despite his success, he remained extremely humble, passionate and fully attentive to — even invigorated by — our conversation. As he talked, a friend from his group would occasionally interject with comments like “he has the most Instagram followers around here” (which I believed, since he had upwards of 11k followers when we met) and “he’s bringing recognition to our city.” Still, SinFiltro struck me as having more purpose than simply painting for fame. In fact, he didn’t seem to be motivated by that. His name, for example, had nothing to do with filters that we typically associate with social media use. Instead, he clarified his motives.
“My name is SinFiltro because my art doesn’t have the filter of museums or institutions, understand? You don’t choose to visit my art, my art visits you. It’s art for maybe those who can’t afford to visit a fancy museum or don’t have time to appreciate art. My gallery is unfiltered by the streets.”
He admitted he wasn’t directly making art to change anyone’s perception of the world, but he had definitely altered my perception of Mendoza in the short time I had known him and his work. As a recently arrived foreigner, I told him, seeing his cartoons made me feel a sense of comfort and connection to a place I knew nothing about, helping ease my arrival to a new country. His street art was playful, inviting, and encouraged outsiders like me to explore aspects of a city that could easily be ignored. He was happy to hear this, and generously passed me another beer. After, he took me to the back of the spot with the owners and smoked me out, with true Argentinian hospitality.
Argentina, like the majority of nations around the world, is filled with a largely monolithic population. Unlike a few neighboring countries (Peru, Bolivia, Brazil) there are very few dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in the land of the Gauchos, where diversity noticeably lacks.
During our talk, I learned that Mendoza — and the whole of Argentina, like everywhere else — suffers from racism and segregation. However, his friends explained to me that this is slowly changing, that their younger siblings attend school with Indians, Chinese, and immigrants from other Latin American countries.
This is an aspect of Mendoza that SinFiltro is aware of, and he paints to fill these gaps and reimagine his city, using 90s nostalgia and a desire for a more inclusive community to promote what he hopes the future may hold.
“I always loved watching shows like Hey Arnold! because it was so diverse. It had Asian characters, disabled characters, poor characters, Black characters, and they all lived together. I used to imagine: what if my neighborhood was like that? I had this image of American cities like the Bronx and Brooklyn where it was just this cosmopolitan city living.”
As he spoke, freshly scented spraypaint dried on his fingernails as if he had just completed a tag before meeting us.
“I kind of want to recreate this [diversity] in Mendoza, so that’s why I paint all types of characters from those cartoons. It’s like they are from everywhere but now they’re here in my city, walking around like real people.”
In a way, SinFiltro’s art is both a look at the past and a look into the future, while existing in the swirl of modernity — and perhaps this is what most elevates his art form into something more than simple graffiti. He is engaged with the fabrics of his community (he emphasized that he always asks for permission before painting because it’s too expensive to get caught by the police), transforming how he wants his city to be seen with simple cartoon characters that challenge how his city is currently understood. He is more than a street painter; he is a visionary for a different world that combines the best elements of ourselves. He even started combining traits from unrelated cartoons to make new hybrids (for example, he recently painted Rocko from Rocko’s Modern Life with Goku’s hairstyle from Dragon Ball-Z), furthering the potential for remixing a new sort of future based on what is familiar to us. And what’s more, he kept exclaiming that it’s not just him, either.
“I’m not even the best here, trust me. There are guys who paint way better than I can. I’m just lucky that my style has communicated to more people. Mendoza is full of talented artists and we’re ready to become a capital of street art in this part of the world, to be considered with places like São Paolo, so that people see Mendoza as a place to visit for free outdoor art.”
The artists in Mendoza are hella deserving of more recognition — not simply as a creative community with technical skills, but as a welcoming tribe who brought me into their circle like a longtime friend. Besides SinFiltro (@resinfiltro), the Asfalticos crew consists of Rojopavez (@rojopavez), Estevanwarro (@latigo), Tano Mota (@tano_aftc), and Nash (@nashfernandez) — who each contributed to the way I understood Mendoza’s street art and history. Follow their artwork, and if you make it to Mendoza — which you should because it turns out the wineries are worth the hype, even for those of us visiting from Northern California — be sure to go off the vineyard paths to discover what the asphalt has to offer.
(Note: this interview was entirely conducted in Spanish; all details have been translated into English by the author)
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