Chilean Street Art Pioneer Nelson Rivas aka Cekis Introduces the “Fence Series”

April 24, 2012

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis painting from Fence Series"

Chilean native Nelson Rivas aka Cekis, one of the pioneers of the Latin American street art movement, began painting on the streets of his native city, Santiago, when he was sixteen. Since then, his artwork has graced the walls of a range of cities from Sao Paulo to Paris. Based in NYC for the last seven years, he has painted murals throughout Brooklyn and beyond. Recently, Nelson held his first open studio featuring the Fence Series, a series of paintings on the theme of immigration and the concept of self-imprisonment. While visiting Nelson’s studio last week, we asked him a few questions.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

What inspired you to create the Fence Series?

Various personal experiences and encounters have sparked the concept of these paintings. When I moved out of Chile, I left behind almost everything I’d ever known: my family, my friends, and my career as a graffiti artist.  When I came to NYC, I had no money, poor English language skills and hardly any friends. I had actually exiled myself from freedom and comfort, and I began to feel fenced in.  It was a fence I had imposed on myself to enable me to grow as an artist. Once here, I met many immigrants with incredible stories. These people and their stories spurred me to further explore the theme of fences, particularly as they relate to immigrants.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork"

How long have you been working on this particular series?

A couple of years ago, fences began to surface in my studio work. At first, they appeared as a subtle layer of texture, and then they gradually evolved into an essential element of my work.   In the last six months, however, I started to play and experiment with fences as the main feature of my work. I started creating different colored fences, overlapping them, and intertwining them. I transformed the fence into a metaphor for imposed or self-imposed oppression, division, and the yearning for freedom.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

How would you describe the process of creating your work?

The more I work and develop the concept, the more natural the process becomes. I don’t have any particular formula. If I did, I would start to get bored.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

What materials do you primarily work with?

I’ve been working with lots of acrylic markers, acrylic house paint, spray paint, paper, wood and photos.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

How has working in a studio been different from working in the streets?

I love painting on the street, but in NYC it is quite difficult to get new walls. It is easy to feel paranoid even when you are a legal resident. This is the main reason I started painting in the studio.  I love painting murals, but I’ve come to enjoy the idea of experimenting, exploring and trying out new ideas on paper, wood or canvas. Also, when I work in my studio, I have fewer distractions. Then when I go outside, I apply some of the techniques I’ve developed from my studio work to my huge public works.

"Nelson Rivas aka Cekis artwork on paper"

What’s next?

I’d like to continue painting at home and eventually share these latest pieces in a gallery setting. I recently received a grant to paint outdoor murals in Sunset Park later this spring. And I plan to travel abroad in the late fall to participate in a huge street art festival scheduled to take place in South America.

Good luck! We’re looking forward to seeing your outdoor murals in the months ahead.

Photos by Street Art NYC & Nelson Rivas

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Eduardo May 1, 2012 at 11:19 pm

grande cekiz!


Susan Perrin May 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Bravo Cekis!


Mitch Moses March 30, 2023 at 4:49 pm

Hope all is well. I am reaching out to you because I just heard that the 191st Graffiti Subway tunnel was painted over.      In Sept 2021, I 3D scanned the Graffiti Tunnel (I was into 3D scanning iconic NYC spaces). I saw a YouTube video talking about the worst subways stations in NYC, and when I saw the 191st Tunnel,  It caught my attention, I could see it was an Amazing, beautiful space that I wanted to 3D scan. I am offering this 3D Tour to the Uptown Community in any way that I can. Please check out the 3D Tour, and let me know. Thank you.  (191 St Graffiti Tunnel)

                                       Mitch Moses


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