World Building Art: The works of Rafael Lanfranco

Re imagining identity through world building art, art toys, kawaii and pop

By Daniel G. Alonso

Multidisciplinary artist Rafael Lanfranco, delves in the past and present to propose a possible future with a world building art aesthetic.

Latin America in contemporary art

In Latin America nowadays, the artistic context is undergoing a transformation process; the view of the visual scenery is becoming more complex and advances more rapidly than in previous years. 

We can mention the participation of Latin American galleries in international events and fairs; big galleries and museums are interested in adding to their collections works from the region, among other factors.  Latino creators are becoming the focus of attention of specialists, curators, art critics and collectors for various reasons. We can thus appreciate through their works a line of reflection regarding the social and contextual processes that concern artists day after day, and the existence of a stylistic eclecticism of languages, forms and aesthetics.


Beaux arts and contemporary art

In addition, we can see how the established models are mutating from the classic (meaning, the academic) to “everything goes” (post-modern period); it is a stage where we question the nature and origin of things and, particularly, the concept of art.  However, we can spot a group of artists in whose productions we can find a link between the beaux arts tradition and contemporaneity.

Going “Glocal”

Wherever I make comments or write about Latin American art, I express my interest in seeing proposals that no longer talk about nationalisms and/or localisms, but that delve into more universal issues; that the readings do not remain in the mere pretext of their commonness, but on the contrary, that their work may be read in any gallery or museum of the world

Each creator is a universe; delves into world building art even if he does not mean to, their expectation horizons are unalike, and each is capable of leaving a mark beyond the vital boundaries of their existence. And the work of the Peruvian multi-disciplinary artist, Rafael Lanfranco, does leave that mark.

Felino the thief on chinesse paper background

South America and its unique visual culture

It is for this reason that in Peru, if we analyze the contemporary context for visual arts, we can find a variety of historical cultural complexes that make the South American region a space of great expectations in its various artistic manifestations.

Peru is a country that has undergone by many social, political and economic changes, factors that are closely linked to the cultural movement and certainly have a direct influence on the life and work of the artists.  Every tradition carries weight on the post-modern Andean context; the artists have a past with an incomparable, and I dare say, unique visual richness. Very few have ventured to explore and research every narrative, every corner of the most varied pre-Hispanic cultures of Peru.


Latinamerican Pop and world building art

One of the artists who has taken an interest in broaching his history from the post-modern point of view is Rafael Lanfranco who, from his beginnings to this date, has set a very characteristic hallmark within the Peruvian visual panorama. 

A good follower of the pop culture (Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Kaws) and of the productions from the Asian continent (comics, manga, Takashi Murakami, etc which are very rich in world building art), Lanfranco has managed to create a unique universe highlighting a character that has evolved and has become his alter ego; this character called Wako (derived from the word Huaco, typical Peruvian pottery) is capable of delving into the most critical events of the surrounding society, always from the perspective of the allegory, the fiction, and world building art.


Connecting through emotion

Through this character, Rafael intends to experiment with other artifices (painting, graphics, among others) to make his social commentaries even more refreshing.  The recipient must find these commentaries in each of his representations because Lanfranco wants everyone to think and reflect on what he/she is observing.  They are pieces that are thought for you to establish an affective link and be able to determine which readings the artist wants you to grasp.

world building art


A dialogue through illustration and world building art

In his drawings, a manifestation that he never puts aside, we can see the importance of the represented figure where the background is a visual support element that makes the character stand out and have a life of its own. 

Each drawing, of different countenance, appears in the composition and is accompanied by a series of symbols and accessories that speak of the main characteristics and the psychology of every Wako. In addition, time goes by and Lanfranco has evolved his aesthetics and his way of thinking; this universe of the illustration for Rafael is a fascinating world that manages to establish a direct dialogue with the viewer.

From 2D to 3D world building art

Moreover, Lanfranco’s production has evolved, and from the initial bi-dimensionality he began experimenting until finding the path that is characteristics of him at present.  His eye has always aimed at the most traditional and modern art; however, situations and contextual issues in his country made him question the manifestation he approached (drawing and painting) until reaching the tri-dimensionality, the modus operandi that is linked to his profession. 

In other words, Rafael has exercised not only his creative side but also that of communication and graphic design which he dealt with in the planning, development and execution of his works with the use of more advanced tools.

World Building Art

Restless artist

The support varies according to the artist’s concerns; his mind –literally- is never at rest; he is always thinking about the various projects he may carry out and in which his Wakos can be present.  His spirit is generating new symbolic functions and fictional world builidng art project that lodge in his brain and now become a reality when presented as an object/work of art. 

In every exhibition Rafael breaks down established preconceptions, a defragmentation that enables him to combine new systems of knowledge linked to the relationship existing between pictorial and sculptural tradition and graphic design tools. They are different moments, and therefore, his artistic paradigm has changed little by little.

Out of the box artist

An element that fascinates me about Rafael Lanfranco’s work is that he prevents his work from being catalogued under a specific movement or trend; he is not afraid of moving through various languages; rigidity annoys him.  His proposals in painting, drawing and sculpture have caused his production to have a unique unmistakable seal, aspects which enable him to expand now his exploratory horizons.


Representing the present with the past

His way of thinking is aimed at the construction of an entire “world building art” of fantasy in which each of his sculptures play different roles in a society created by the artist himself; this is a discourse that has accompanied him since his beginnings, and if we analyze it now, we can see an ensemble of pieces that cannot be appreciated individually but in its entirety. 

His visual production grows day by day.   His works present a close relationship with society and have an impressive degree of up-to-datedness; and, in addition, they are permeated by their aesthetic, formal and conceptual quality.  His works are new ways of assuming and showing reality; the representation of the present with the past does not only becomes an archive of referents but a live memory to which tribute is paid at all times.

Wako Dragon

An artist is born

His rigorous selection process speaks of the seriousness with which Lanfranco works.  Contemporariness is part of his day-to-day; his surroundings offer him enough elements for diverse solutions, all of them defied in his elaboration and in the construction of his messages. A new fascinating and rational language has been created by an artist in Peru; his lines, backgrounds, colors, expressions and poses make of Rafael Lanfranco an innate talent in Peruvian contemporary art.