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Rico Fonseca, 80, ‘The Artist of Greenwich Village,’ a fixture in Washington Square for 50 years

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Rico Fonseca, who sold his art outside Washington Square Park for decades and went by the moniker “The Artist of Greenwich Village,” died on May 8 at his home in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He was 80.

A notice of Fonseca’s death is posted on the fence of New York University School of Law’s Vanderbilt Hall, on MacDougal Street just south of the park.

Fonseca was particularly known for his portraits of rock stars and other musicians, along with 1960s-style hippie imagery. One of his trademarks was his posters filled with dozens of mini-portraits of musicians — packed together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle — all of them from a similar genre or particular era. It’s fun to look at them and try to name all the stars. Fonseca would also mix current events — like the Cold War or the space program — into his pop posters.

The corner at MacDougal Street and Washington Square South where Fonseca spent decades selling his art. (Photo by The Village Sun)
The Beatles were among Fonseca’s favorite subjects. He said the band is an inspiration — both musically and spiritually — for all generations. (Photo by The Village Sun)
A mural of 1960s rock stars outside the music club Groove on W. Third Street that Fonseca painted in 1999. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Fonseca put himself at the bottom of the mural, next to a ’60s symbol, a mushroom. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Rico Fonseca was born in Lima, Peru, where he developed his artistic talent at a young age and dreamed of becoming a world-renowned artist. With only $25 in his pocket, he hitchhiked his way up the Pan-American Highway, arriving in Miami three months later.

On his way to America, he painted on driftwood. Once in New York City, he developed his signature style in his paintings and in murals.

With his thick, curly hair, colorful beanies and warm smile, Fonseca became an iconic figure in Greenwich Village. For more than 50 years, he sat on MacDougal Street across from Washington Square Park, selling his artwork and inspiring others with his unique style and vision.

His art graced the pages of many newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times and Playboy. According to Fonseca’s obituary on, his pieces were admired by famous individuals, including Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan.

“Rico’s legacy will continue to inspire us all to live a life full of color, creativity and hope,” the obituary states.

A print of Rico Fonseca’s “Awesome 80s” poster in Ben’s Pizzeria. (Photo by The Village Sun)
A detail from Fonseca’s “Awesome 80s” poster, including Boy George and Culture Club, Billy Idol, Tina Turner, Hall & Oates, David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper and the artist himself, at lower left. Along with images of other pop stars, like Michael Jackson and Menudo, the poster also includes a panel with drawings of Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II, representing the end of the Cold War. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Around seven or more years ago, Fonseca shifted his vending spot one block south to MacDougal and W. Third Streets, outside an N.Y.U. School of law dorm. Back then, he told this writer that John Sexton, the former N.Y.U. president, had suggested he move from near the park to the more bustling, honky-tonk corner, but Fonseca did not say if Sexton had given a reason for the request.

On a recent weekday, a longtime Greenwich Village resident was passing by Fonseca’s former original corner, when he spotted the obituary notice.

“Aw, really?” he said, sadly. “A local icon. He made the Village more colorful.”

Declining to share his name, he wondered aloud if Fonseca’s mural was still outside the Groove music club, at the corner of W. Third and MacDougal Streets.

The answer is yes. Actually, there are three of them, all done in the fall of 1999. The one on the right portrays ’60s rock icons, including the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, Jim Morrison, Eric Clapton and Robert Plant. The middle mural is of ’50s rock stars, such as Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. The third is of jazz greats.

A Rico Fonseca poster highlights the culture and nightlife venues of Greenwich Village — many of them gone today — from chess and fire-breathing in the park to musicians like David Peel and comedy clubs. The text beneath the Washington Square Arch says, “Artists, Philosophers, Writers, Sex, Poets, Love, Actors, Fun, Freedom, Joy, Comedy, Party, Rock + Roll And Let It All Hang Out.” (Photo by The Village Sun)
A detail from the “Greenwich Village” poster. (Photo by The Village Sun)
(Photo by The Village Sun)

Five samples of Fonseca’s artwork can also be seen on the wall in Ben’s Pizzeria, just across the street from Groove. A couple of pieces depict ’80s musicians and stars. One shows a herd of comedians, while another contains a mass of just Michael Jackson mini-portraits.

Rico Fonseca is survived by his only child, Fabian Fonseca, and stepchildren, Donya, Gary, Byron, Debbie and Casey. Services were held June 3 at Kniffen O’Malley Leffler Funeral & Cremation Services, in Wilkes-Barre.

A print of Rico Fonseca’s “Flower Child” poster from 1990.

In a tribute posted on the online obituary, Alex Noschese, a video editor, recalled enjoying talking with Fonseca when Noschese was a student at New York University.

“I’m very sad to hear about Rico’s passing but I’m incredibly grateful for all the time we spent together back in my days at N.Y.U.,” he wrote. “We first met because one of my best friends had Rico’s ‘Flower Child’ poster up on his bedroom wall. My friend told me who Rico was and that he sold work on the corner right by my dorm. I went over one day, introduced myself, and we became fast friends.

“I can’t count how many Sundays we would sit and talk for hours. I loved hearing all his stories about the Village and his own life history. We developed a very close friendship and eventually worked on some video projects together.

“He once brought me up to his apartment on the Upper West Side, which was a fascinating place, and later invited me to stay with him and Patricia for a few days at their house in Wilkes-Barre, PA, which was even more fascinating,” Noschese recalled. “The world he created for himself at home was like nothing else. His sense of decoration and his art all around was such a treat to see, and it made him so happy.

“Eventually we lost touch as my life got quite busy after college, but I still saw him a couple times after that and he always held a special place in my heart. He was like no one else I’ve ever known and he touched so many people’s lives over the years. The world will miss him, but his memory will live on in the art he created, and with the countless people he impressed with it.”


  1. K Le Moignan K Le Moignan March 29, 2024

    I have a poster of Flower Child poster signed rico fonseca from 1984. Awesome poster.

  2. John John February 22, 2024

    Is there a place to get prints of his work?

  3. Rhonda J Waggoner Rhonda J Waggoner August 3, 2023

    Rico was a very talented songwriter and musician, as well! To see his artwork on the Upper West Side, drop by Mamouns’s Falafel place on Columbus Ave.

  4. John Bredin John Bredin July 14, 2023

    Very sad news. Rico was emblematic of all the things we love about the Village. Did you know he also had a TV show on MNN? My wife and I featured him as a guest on our own TV show, “Public Voice Salon,” several years ago. We just let Rico be Rico, riffing about art and life, on the famous Village street corner he blessed for so many years. Rest in Power.

    • Eddie Eddie July 23, 2023

      What episode was that ? Thanks Eddie

  5. Patricia Patricia July 10, 2023

    So very sad to hear of his passing. Loved his amazing posters. The article doesn’t mention the one w the child (Christ child?) in the very center w the beautiful smile reaching out to the viewer – all humanity. He was a wonderful artist.

    • Lenny Hall Lenny Hall April 14, 2024

      Love the picture of Flower Child. How can I get a list of the artists on it? Very much a talking point at home.

  6. Robert Lederman Robert Lederman July 10, 2023

    A wonderful person, a great artist and a living landmark. His art is all over the world.

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