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                          23 / 04 / 12

                          Brazil: Street Art, Not ‘graffiti’

                          • I had the privilege to be in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro for work and one of the most memorable take away from this trip is the beautiful street art everywhere. It is also the source of inspiration for this photo-essay commentary on the street art in Brazil.

                            Brazilian street art has come a long way. It was only de-criminalized in March 2009 with the passing of law 706/07. With this amendment to the federal law, street art was finally made legal in Brazil as long as they were painted with consent from the owners.

                          • Wall mural along a high traffic road in Sao Paulo city by the famous Os Gêmeos brothers. Their work represent their culture, the beauty of Brazil, and the positive aspects of Brazilian family life through their vibrant images. They have become a tremendous success, internationally recognized for their work. Their first international exposition was in 2003, at the Luggage Store Gallery and in 2005 and participated in MOCA’s “Art in the Streets” exhibition in Los Angeles in 2011.


                            In Brazil, there are 2 popular forms of street art – one of which is tagging also known as pichação, and the other is what we all know as graffiti. Tagging in Brazil is a form of black spray paint graffiti in the form of symbols and words, often associated with the reflection of urban decay and deep class divisions. Pichação was developed in the 1960s, as a means of protesting political messages using public space, particularly during Brazil’s dictatorship. Spray-painted slogans combating corrupt city politics were the “art” of the era. Now pichação is considered less an art form and more an activity in which rebel youth compete by spray-painting their pseudonyms in hard-to-reach spots.

                            Graffiti is the prettier cousin, and vastly different from tagging. It is often colourful, has recognizable characters and objects, tells a story or creates a mood, and is more aesthetically pleasing.

                            Wall mural at Beco do Batman in Sao Paulo, integrating both vector drawings and sketching techniques

                            What really struck me when I was busy taking photos of these great street art was how different they were from ‘traditional’ hip-hop graffiti styles and how it has almost evolved from graffiti to art.

                            Untappedcities.com also talked about how “Brazilian graffiti art is considered among the most significant strand[s] of a global urban art movement, and its diversity defies the increasing homogeneity of world graffiti.”

                            Grunge-styled graffiti that not only fits but also enhances the natural environment and landscape, Rio de Janeiro

                            I saw many murals that were carefully crafted and seemed to tell a story about the artist, while integrating a wide variety of drawing techniques.

                            ‘Magic-themed’ art piece along the streets of Rio de Janeiro


                            Wall mural that extended to the pavements, Sao Paulo.


                            Creating art from road dividers in Rio de Janeiro


                            Creating a 3D effect out of a wall, Rio de Janeiro


                            Street art painted on residential facades for beautification purposes, Rio de Janeiro


                            Beco do Batman (or, Batman's Alley) in the Vila Madalena neighborhood in west Sao Paulo, where graffiti has overtaken the alley


                            A whimsical piece at Beco do Batman, Sao Paulo


                            Graffiti in its purest form was supposed to be an act of rebellion, but as the world continues to embrace and finesse this form of art, I wonder if graffiti has lost its real meaning and integrity?

                            Nevertheless, strolling through these art ‘galleries’ on the streets had certainly been a very enjoyable and eye-opening experience.

                            Regina Tan

                            Photos courtesy of Regina Tan, all rights reserved