Daniel Anguilu’s artwork gracefully demands my attention as I drive past Midtown. Shattered with gestural swoops and slashes, lines and shapes morph around an apartment complex like a luminous vine. His signature angular and geometrical abstract work stands out in an area of otherwise muted, dull colors. Bold and vibrant–the murals resemble colorful stained glass with a distinct graphic quality in the hard lines and bright colors.
His work differentiates itself from other graffiti artists. A kaleidoscope full of life, he often depicts animals or geometric shapes. Anguilu grew up in Mexico, witnessing different art forms as he traveled the country, a perfect breeding ground deeply rooted in culture. “I acquired knowledge of geometry, math, cosmology, color, symbols, music, and plants. I come from a rich culture,” Anguilu says. At the age of 14, he found himself surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and language in his new home, Houston. He felt unable to fully communicate with his peers.
It wasn’t until he began helping a friend do traditional graffiti––tagging behind convenience stores, running from police in the middle of the night––that he was first introduced to the art form. Anguilu began experimenting on his own, writing on notebooks and his school backpack, until one stranger noticed his graffiti “writing”. Soon Anguilu found himself inside an abandoned building north of downtown where “graf writers” from all over the city gathered to showcase their work. By the time he was 16, Anguilu’s life was consumed by graffiti. The more he painted the more he learned that he could communicate through his artwork.
After high school graduation came the world. Anguilu’s life now consisted of working temporary jobs, saving, and traveling. He never missed an opportunity to paint, crashing on friends’ couches, dodging law enforcement in places like Spain, Italy, Peru, Morocco, China, and Turkey. Armed with nothing but spray paint, he crafted pieces onto walls. This thrilling adrenaline-rushed spirit of the graffiti artist stayed with him through his teens and early twenties. Now, Anguilu leaves the illegal graffiti to his younger counterparts.
From its initial stages, the graffiti culture was not easily accepted by society. This artform made appearances around the hip-hop scene but became associated with gangs and crime. While there may be some gang members who practice graffiti and are part of that culture, most graffiti artists will dispute this point. Still, this belief has sternly punished artists like Anguilu.
But it has been artists like him who have transformed Houston. Businesses are hiring graffiti artists to paint murals on the sides of buildings. The city is slowly embracing this art form and is now using murals to promote tourism. The tradition that was once viewed solely as vandalism and a culture of criminals has turned into a world of beautification.
Anguilu has painted over 100 murals around the city of Houston and the world. His works are mostly large-scale murals, featured in large cities such as Istanbul, Paris, and Mexico City. He draws heavily from his Mexican heritage for inspiration—abstract shapes, animal imagery, and vibrant colors. With every finished artwork, a piece of his life is documented, his spiritual growth, his political views. Still, no matter how significant his paintings are to him, he has no attachment. “My work in public does not belong to anyone. I don’t sign my work. All of my work is to share and also to grow. I don’t have egotistic attachments to the work that exists in public. It’s going to fade or get painted over, possibly demolished. That’s the point—to learn to survive just enough to share something.” Anguilu says. The instability of a street artist’s work is something that they clearly understand, but for Anguilu it serves more than just that, “Art can be a gift and an exchange of ideas. Art can also help us identify.”
Anguilu believes in freedom of expression and his need to use public places is the underlying force to exercise this expression. With that in mind, he helps maintain the Harrisburg Art Museum, and has been a contributor to the efforts at both War’House, and East End Studio Gallery, showcasing a wide range of community graffiti and street artists in Houston.
The street art movement has helped expose artists like Anguilu to a wider audience, and street art is increasingly becoming more common in cities around the U.S. He has collaborated with businesses like Houston Metro, Texas Art Asylum, The Station Museum, The Glassell School of Art, and Lawndale Art among many others. His art can now be found all over the city.
Art became a part of Anguilu’s life, and for seven years, he would go somewhere else to showcase his creations. Until one day he decided to remain in his hometown, “Houston did not have many murals or platforms on which people could paint, so I began to explore if it was possible to create art in the streets, and I found people were open to my work.” With his artistic murals, Anguilu has branded Houston with colorful and energetic scenes, making him one of Houston’s most valuable treasures.