Off the Wall

By: Joel Marino

When it comes to street art, New York and Los Angeles pretty much have the market cornered. Today, though, we’re telling the City of Angels to take a hike, brah. And the Big Apple? Fuggedaboutit. Because something exciting is happening way out in Phoenix, Arizona. There, a Mexican muralist named Lalo Cota is leaving his mark with vibrant colors.

Cota, a Sonora native who grew up in the Copper State, has been at the street-art game for more than a decade, but it’s just now that his work is starting to get the recognition it deserves. And if you take a glance at his Instagram gallery, you’ll see why: these are some marvelously surreal wall tags.

Like other Mexican artists, Cota’s work is infused with Day of the Dead imagery, particularly grinning sugar skulls. But he twists these motifs by exaggerating the skeletons’ features and placing them in stereotypical Latino situations, like macabre faces peering out of tricked-out low-riders or macho revolutionaries showing off their blazing guns. But what makes his work truly exciting is how he pushes the boundaries of street art, bringing high-octane yet delicate beauty into unexpected spots, like a skate park or a nondescript parking lot.

All of this is just another way of saying that we know exactly where we’ll be heading for our next street-art-spotting vacation. We’ve heard that there’s some fine food to be had in Phoenix, too. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have some plane tickets to book...

Joel Marino is a NYC-based freelance writer and editor who enjoys traveling and saying “I told you so” as much as possible. When not writing, he spends his time on a never-ending quest to find the perfect empanada.