To prevent himself from going stir-crazy during the pandemic lockdown, the Denver artist who goes by Charlo decided to paint an outdoor mural. But he needed a surface. So he posted a request in the Nextdoor neighborhood app. Someone offered their alleyway.
“I have always wanted to do a mural,” he said. “One person came to the front and was like ‘I have a garage door. It’s black — if you want to use that.’ ”
The result turned drab into dazzle.
Charlo describes his mostly black or white designs as joyful, full of surprises and abundant. Abundance refers to the many lines and shapes he uses to fill space. But now having done more than 20 such garage murals, it is also true that Charlo’s work itself is abundant.
Charlo also works English and Spanish words into his art. Like allegria.
“It sounds a lot like ‘allergy’ I know! Some people confuse that in English,” he said. “In Spanish, it means ‘experiencing joy’ and this word I used as the main theme of one of the garage doors.”
He was inspired to include allegria when he saw the smiles on the faces of the family whose door he was painting.
Charlo calls the project “Make Alleys Great Again” — MAGA for short — a play on former President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.
“I’m trying to take a little bit of that meaning away and give it a new one,” Charlo says.
Charlo was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. His mother instilled in him a sense of gratitude, which is why words and phrases that convey thankfulness also appear in his work.
“She taught me to always be grateful and that that was going to be a way to get far in life.”