Speaking with Juan Carlos Pinto

February 6, 2013

Carlos Pinto

Best-known for his diverse works fashioned from a range of salvaged material and found objects, Guatemalan native Juan Carlos Pinto continues to transform the landscape of his Flatbush, Brooklyn environs.  His remarkable portraits crafted from bits and pieces of Metro cards are currently on exhibit at Le Salon d’Art on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. You can meet Carlos at the opening party on February 14 at 90 Stanton Street from 7-10pm.

You’ve been living in NYC for over ten years now.  What first brought you here?

New York City has a magnetic attraction to a street art enamorado.

What made you decide to call Brooklyn home?

Brooklyn is the Paris of 100 some years ago.

You also spent considerable time on the Lower East Side when you first arrived.

Yes. My second home away from home was the Lower East Side/East Village, as I found work with the guys — a wonderful crew that supports art — at “The Crooked Tree,” a creperie at 110 St. Marks.

Do you have a formal art education?

No, but I do have degree in Industrial Design that I earned at URL, Landívar in Guatemala.

Carlos Pinto street art

What inspires you to get your work out on the streets?

It is the most powerful means for me to get my message across. And art is more powerful than machetes and swords.

And have you a specific message?

I’m against corporations and waste. My approach is largely ecological. And when I work on the streets, I engage the community in my projects. Art is not the privilege of the rich. That is the museum attitude. And I offer a challenge to it.

Tell us something about your work on exhibit at La Salon d’Art. When did you start working with Metro cards?

It started as a means of protest in 2002 when the MTA announced that it was planning to raise the fare. It is also a statement about recycling.

Carlos Pinto Metro card art

Have you ever been arrested for the work you’ve put up on the streets here?

A good thief never gets caught.

Have you shown your work at galleries?

I generally don’t like the gallery attitude, but, yes, I have shown my work in galleries.  Both Frankie Velez and Paul Cabezas include me in shows that they curate.

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in all of this?

The Internet can teach you everything that an art school can teach you. A formal art education in an established art school is a waste of time and money.

Carlos Pinto

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Don Rimx, Meres One of 5Pointz, Ken Hiratskua and Jim Power, who was also a personal mentor.

What is the attitude of your family and friends towards what you do?

They are all involved in what I do. My son is with me just about all the time that he isn’t in school.

What is the source of your income?

I sell art, receive grants and do commissions. I am a recipient of a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council. Everything I do is art. Being an artist is a full time gig. It’s like being gay; you can’t turn it on or off.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope I’m alive. I live day by day.

Photos by Tara Murray and Lois Stavsky

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Evelyn Socias February 15, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Dear Mr Pinto,
I was very drawn to your work and would love to own one of Frida! You’re amazing. I attended your opening and really enjoyed your art and your inner joy. it shows in your work. What can I do to purchase one?


Pinto March 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Thanks Evelyn, and thanks for collect my work!


Nan Deardorff-McClain June 21, 2015 at 8:58 am

Your work is stunning and inspiring. Next time I’m in New York, I will have to see your mosaics! I like to make art as a community using mosaic too.


Ian knife February 19, 2021 at 8:24 pm

Epic , iconic , New Yorkish .


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