Interview and showcase of junk food artist Pablo Llana

Pablo Llana is a critically acclaimed artist living and working in Mexico. His work explores themes of consumerism and waste, often utilising the medium of used junk food wrappers. 

Could you first introduce yourself and your background to the reader?

I’m Pablo Llana, I was born in the City of Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico in 1980, where I actually live. I was a student of the “Programa de Profesionalización Artística para Artistas Visuales” (PROPAVIS [Artistic Professionalization Program for Visual Artists]) taught at the “Centro de Humanidades de Baja California”, with support from CONACULTA, that included distinguished artistic and professional teachers such as: Felipe Ehrenberg, Carmen Mariscal, Pablo Camacho and Cristina King Miranda, Olga Margarita Dávila, among others from 2000 to 2002. 

I have participated in more than 20 local and international collective expositions, in addition to my Diploma Courses in plastic arts at Casa de la Cultura de Tijuana [Tijuana House of Culture].

Among my most recent individual exhibits are:

  • ”SWEET DEATH” Art Virus Ltd. Gallery Frankfurt, Germany; 

  • “MOUTHFUL” at the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca; and…

  • “Yo código comunidad [I Community Code]” at the Centro Cultural Tijuana. 

My work is found in national and international collections, and some examples are part of the permanent collection at the CECUT museum.

You use an extremely unique medium for your art, could you tell us a bit about that and why you first chose junk food wrappers to express yourself?

The first thing you should know is that Mexico is a country with high levels of obesity and other diseases due to junk food, in addition to the garbage that this consumption generates daily. So the idea is to show satirical stories using the wrappers of junk-food products as raw material. I point towards a political reflection by tightly joining the critical and social senses. It is well worth saying that the great junk-food store chains and “big-city” lifestyles — that in modern times have come to be understood as an improvement for humanity — blind the individual in the face of junk-food industrial corporations and massive unintelligent consumerism.

Is there a common theme to your work?

As victims of out-of-control consumerism since the global post-war period from the middle of the 20th century, the consumer culture in Mexico has been strongly influenced by patterns and habits of a U.S. nature. Notwithstanding this, the scenario described from the years of the 80’s and 90’s accelerated this process in a radical way and in more than one direction. It isn’t just suddenly that Milky Way or Reese’s chocolates, as well as establishments such as McDonald’s and, more recently, Starbucks appeared in Mexico. My theme is about the consequences of that. My theme is about explaining in a sarcastic way the consequences of consumerism to the global population.

How has your work evolved over the years, have any external factors influenced you? 

Part of this evolution around my job begins from acknowledging that in Mexico obesity has increased significantly in a short amount of time, so my work looks into this problem in a direct manner: the multiplication of transnational goods (specifically junk food) and its popular consciousness as well as the “economics of food choice”, and its results that have developed in Mexico since those products got an opening in the national market.

For someone born in the 1980s, as is the case with me, this transformation in consumerist culture and its social implications was something experienced on a first-hand basis, and is lived with on a day-to-day basis. Its consequences — increase in obesity levels and other diseases in several countries including Mexico — made me feel the need to use junk food wrappers to portray our current situation with impactful imagery, especially important due to the lack of education on these issues.

Your work has received a lot of cultural acclaim, both locally and internationally, what have been the highlights of your artistic career?

Usually the main highlight for me is when the details and the way my artwork is appreciated are flawless, when the sarcasm is seen as subtle but present, and people are able to generate their own ideas from it. Also it’s important to mention that various pieces are still being honored in different museums where they are currently on expo. 

Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

I have created a new piece called “La Creación de la Destrucción “(Creation of destruction) based on a religious story showing the creation of what destroys us. At the same time I’m working on a new art collection. We are also introducing our pieces for the next Art Basel Edition and other shows in Mexico and worldwide. 

As an artist I can confirm that currently the world has generated many concerns about our future and our alimentation, but I will keep doing this art to educate others, because if you want answers, you need art. 

Where can people find more of your work?

You can follow and contact me through my Instagram @Pablo.Llana or my representation company @this.universo and visit my web page to see my current artworks and available pieces.

Header Image Credit: Pablo Llana with his piece McFat


Hamish Gray

Hamish Gray Kickstart

Hamish Gray is a recent English Literature and Creative Writing graduate with a deep passion for anything that grabs him, be it literature, film, video games or world culture. He is always looking to learn something new and tackles each experience with the unshakeable belief that good art can come from anywhere.

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