On a Roll: Local Printmaker Takes Steamroller to Chinatown’s Streets

Artist Sergio Garzon uses a 5,000-pound industrial steamroller to create art.
Photos: Courtesy of Sergio Garzon


When it comes to printmaking, artist Sergio Garzon thinks big. In fact, the only place his latest work will fit is out on the streets of Honolulu.

Usually, a woodcut print is created by carving a design into the surface of a block of wood. Then, using a roller (also called a brayer), the uncarved surface is coated with ink, which creates an image when pressed against paper. Garzon applies the same method—except his woodblock is 10 feet by 58 feet, his brayer is a 5,000-pound industrial steamroller, and his paper rests atop asphalt.

In 2012, for Garzon’s first “Print Bigger” event, he created a 300-square-foot whale at the Honolulu Museum of Art as part of a “big” message about keeping Hawai‘i’s environment clean. For his second large-scale print, Garzon moved to Chinatown and steamrolled a 740-square-foot giant squid on Hotel Street, between Smith and Maunakea streets.

Borrowing a steamroller turned out to be more challenging than he expected. Alan Levy Construction Co. had helped him earlier. This year, Alakona Corp.—which specializes in asphalt pavement repair—got interested in Garzon’s project. He’s currently planning a print that will be “the biggest yet,” and will be accompanied by an entire theatrical experience in Chinatown using opera singers, puppets and props.

“People have used a steamroller before to create prints, that’s not new. But they’ve always been smaller stuff, on 4-foot wood pieces you just find at Home Depot,” Garzon says. He’s trying to push the boundaries.

Born in Bogota, Colombia, Garzon traveled the country with his family before moving to Florida when he was 14. A scholarship from Coca-Cola sent him to the Atlanta College of Art, where he graduated in 2004. His production company in Hawai‘i, Fishmarket Studios, got its start in Georgia in an old cotton warehouse. “It was like a 20,000-square-foot fun house, with live musicians, tightrope walkers, artists, unicycles.”

After he attended a lecture on working on large-scale projects, Garzon was hooked. When he visited his mother in Hawai‘i in 2010, Garzon decided to stay and work at creating gigantic art.

The large artwork demands attention but also serves as a metaphor. “I get it; culture helps bring people into areas of town that maybe they wouldn’t go to,” Garzon says. “But art shouldn’t just be used as a mop to clean up the neighborhood.”

For more information on Sergio Garzon’s upcoming projects and print events, visit facebook.com/fishmarketstudios.