Putting Art on Wheels and Taking It Back to the Streets

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Jaime Colsa owns a transport company that delivers ordinary consumer goods — computers, food, drinks. The contents of his trucks aren’t eye-catching, but his vehicles certainly are, adorned with paintings showing cartoonlike faces, dogs, brightly colored geometric patterns, spirals and landscapes.

These trucks that crisscross Spain have been painted by artists as part of the Truck Art Project. Financed by Mr. Colsa, the project aims in part to bring street art back to its roots.

“Thanks to people like Banksy, this kind of art has made its way into the gallery,” Mr. Colsa, 45, said here recently. “But I thought it would be interesting and challenging to do the opposite — to get artists out of the gallery or the museum and actually back on the street.”

Banksy is not among the participants, but many of Mr. Colsa’s truck painters, most of whom are Spanish, started out as street artists, though by now they have also exhibited in major galleries and museums.

Abraham Lacalle, whose work has been shown at the Reina Sofía Museum here, painted what he called a truck’s “explosion,” inspired by thoughts of what could happen to the merchandise transported inside.

Two years after completing his painting, Mr. Lacalle said in a phone interview that it was strange to see how trucks and vans had more recently also become associated with terrorism, after attacks in Nice, Berlin, London and, earlier this month, Barcelona.

“I painted with some sense of humor, imagining what could happen to the content of a truck in movement,” he said. “Nobody was then thinking about trucks as a tool of terrorism, so a work that was meant to be fun could now unintentionally appear pretty provocative.”

The most recent truck was painted by Nuria Mora, whose street art has been included in a show at the Tate Modern in London. Her truck sports a brightly colored geometric abstraction that she described as “a game of balance and tension.”

The truck project was born when Mr. Colsa commissioned an artist, Okuda San Miguel, to paint a mural in 2013 on a warehouse for his company, Palibex, on the outskirts of Madrid. When it was done, Mr. Colsa told Mr. San Miguel that “it was a real shame to have this great work on a warehouse that so few people then get to see it.”

The conversation shifted to whether the painting could have been done on a vehicle rather than a wall. So far, Mr. Colsa has spent about €300,000, or around $327,000, on the truck project, which is overseen by two curators, Fer Francés and Óscar Sanz.

In some ways, Mr. Sanz said, the project was “a wink to 30 years ago,” when artists were decorating “the trains and trucks of New York.” Some of those artists have become more established and also more used to painting on larger areas, like murals on buildings. But painting a truck is different.

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