For the past several years, the young Colombian artist Lorenzo Masnah has been culling images of human rights violations, national tragedies and global disasters from a range of international magazines and newspapers. These images – recycled, recreated and screen printed by the artist – have made their way not only onto public spaces, alternative settings and galleries, but also into a series of hand-made books, Nuevos Tiempos.
Lorenzo Masnah’s most recent book, Hard Times/Tiempos Difíciles focuses on natural disasters and presents haunting images of lost and frightened people in the face of tragedy. We recently had the chance to speak to Lorenzo, who is based these days in NYC and is at work in the East Village on a number of political murals.
The images in your book Hard Times/Tiempos Dificiles are quite disturbing. Why did you choose to create a book with images that focus on life’s bleaker side?
When disaster struck in Haiti in 2010, I was particularly moved by newspaper photos that revealed the facial expressions of the Haitian people in the wake of tragedy. I began collecting these images and mounting them throughout my living spaces. They seemed to speak to me. At about the same time, heavy rains struck Bogota and, again, I was drawn to the facial and bodily expressions that surfaced in the printed media, as they reflected what I was seeing as I walked around the city at the time. The following year, I was on the West Coast when heavy rains struck again. Reworking images I collected and self-publishing them was my way of honoring those people struck by unforeseeable disasters that could happen to anyone at any time. It is also my therapy.
How did you go about selecting the images that you include in the book?
I have endless boxes filled with images I collect that engage me either politically or emotionally. From time to time I review these images and I categorize them. Then, I choose my favorites. Those are the ones I include in my books.
Tell us something about the process of publishing these books.
After I select the images that I want to include in the book, I dissect and rework them – often with lines and elements influenced by graffiti – and then I screen print them. When I’m satisfied with my selection of images, inks and colors – with feedback from folks at my local deli — I bind the pages with cardboard covers, recycled from boxes I get from nearby restaurants.
What motivates you to keep working on this particular project?
My intent is to give new meaning to news that is generally discarded at the end of each day. I see what I’m doing as a long-term project – recreating visual narratives that speak about and to a range of people across the globe. I am interested in preserving memories.
Masnah’s books are available directly through the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org. His prints, along with those by other members of APC — the Animal Power Crew that Lorenzo co-founded with Stinkfish back in 2006 — are available at Mula Printing. Photo of Lorenzo with book by Lois Stavsky.