Thursday, June 28, 2007

Peguei: Marinho in Public


Marinho is a well-known figure in Rio, at least visually. His signature black ink eye can be found in pretty much every neighborhood in Rio, frequently in very unexpected locations. Many believe that his work is meant to emulate that of O Profeta, a graffiti poet that died ten years ago, whose work can still be seen around the Rodoviaria. O Profeta used uniform tall lettering to recount passages from the Bible and his interpretations of them. There is a crew of Profeta devotees that maintain his work and paint over the letters multiple times a year. Marinho resides in Santa Teresa and is known to have a formal education in art. In this way, he is a bridge between the two realms of marginalized art. On one end, he is one of the resident artists of a well- known and elite art gallery called A Gentil Carioca, located in Centro. This gallery hosts both international and national experimental artists and was sited by the New York Times as evidence of Rio's up-and-coming art scene. However, it is hard to deny that most of Marinho's work takes place in the street and is, in fact, graffiti. His art is very thematic with the constant repetition of what appears to be a Christ figure and an omnipresent eye all through out the city of Rio. His style is simplistic and reminiscent of the art movement, Primitivism, stresses the return of purity to art by fully indulging the senses. He works mostly in black and white with dashes of colors to highlight. According to a friend, "ele tem a cabeça nas nuvens mas é um cara legal."("he always has his head in the clouds but he's a cool guy.) There real question is, if you can find Waldo on every page, where do you find Marinho?
Here are my attempts:


In this video, I take a walk through COPACABANA to try to give you more of a sense of what graffiti's like in the street. The footage is a little bumpy but meant to emphasize how highly trafficked the area is.

Various Examples of Graffiti Encountered in Rio on the Streets and in the Art Scene

Nação Graffiti

I first encountered the work of Nação in an exhibition at Caixa Cultural a few months ago, called Fabulosas Desordens, that set out to redefine the aesthetic of Rio by valorizing graffiti as a fundamental, urban art form. According to their website, the exhibit "arose from the reflection on the institutionalization of graffiti art as a contemporary visual language and its relations with the city, the communication channels and, especially, with current art production." Placed in the gallery setting, the young graffiti artists expanded their range, working with some formal aspects of art they had never considered, such as lighting and how to approach a purely white wall. In the gallery, there was no interplay with the street, their work had to stand on its own and interpret a space that was free of crutches, just white space. According to the curators, friends of Nação, the entire space was tagged and finished in just one afternoon, which is impressive, if not unbelievable, if you saw the show. For those that did not make it, there are photos on the exhibition's website that will give a peek into both the international and Brazilian graffiti scene and the interconnection between the two.

I left the show, smiling like an idiot, touched not only by the beauty and the breadth of the work but the keen social consciousness behind it. I was especially impressed with that of Nação, represented in this show by graffiti writers, Bragga and Ment, because of their strict adherence to urban themes. While many of the other works were aesthetically pleasing, they lacked the focus of Nação. Their work was sharp, to the point and did not get lost in exotic dreamscapes or nostalgic images of the Sertão. It was an urban show and they were, by and large, the most urban representatives. Living for some time in Rio, I could find my own struggles to understand the cacophony of this city left simply stated on their walls.

To say the least, my interest was sparked.

I set on the web to find out what I could and happened across a Deutsch site called Caramundo. The organization describes themselves in the following manner: "Caramundo is a young non-profit organization that supports small-scale, local projects and initiatives of young people in developing countries in Latin America and Africa that stimulate autonomy and independence. We think that young people all over the world should have the chance to reveal themselves on a social, political, educational and cultural level." Much of the work of this organization is tied up directly with Nação Graffiti. Through them and a very kind woman named Anouk who Ment, a Nação member, described as being "as close as a sister," I began meeting up with the core members of the crew to informally teach them English via photocopied packets I made at home, which included graffiti vocabulary and necessary slang.

As a result, I've gotten to know them quite well during my last month here and look at them all as friends. The more I get to know them, the more I find affirmation in what had originally attracted me to their work in the show at Caixa: a intuitive and reactive social consciousness. Through their art, they have the liberty to redefine space, whether that means the beautification of one space or the radicalization and defacement of another. They are allowed complete mobility throughout society via their art. Putting this notion to good ends, the main goal of Nacão right now is to open a graphic design school in Zona Norte where they grew up. A social aspect of this school would be to "use part of the profit to invest in graffiti workshops for young children of poor neighborhoods and advanced courses in graphic- and web design as well. Those workshops and courses will keep young boys and girls away from drug trafficking, prostitution and other forms of violence and guide them into a creative and constructive process towards independence." In this way, they are eager to spread the livelihood they themselves have found in graffiti. For Nação, graffiti provides an opportunity to enact social change. If anyone is planning to live in Rio and is interested in teaching English informally and hanging out with a wonderful group of creative and cheeky "vagabundos," I ask that you please contact me and I will send word onto them.

in portuguese//em português:

1) Ment
Download Mp3

2) Gais
Download Mp3

3) Gais final thought
Download Mp3

also, check out their links


and their gallery, the first of its kind in Rio:


Graffiti is nothing new.

As long as man has had contentious thoughts and the means to write them on walls, we’ve done so. From remains of Nordic graffiti in the Hagia Sofia in Istambul to school desks through out the world, we continue to write our names where they shouldn’t, legally, be.

Yet, despite all this history, the impulse to autograph public space did not turn into a viable art and social movement until the 1970’s in NYC ( There, born in the Bronx, graffiti proliferated like wild flowers in the subways and city streets, filling neglected urban voids with vibrant images. In this way, the movement offered a public venue for primarily young ethnic minorities to revolt against societal oppression. Due to the fact that graffiti was and continues to be illegal everywhere, artists had the liberty to tag (the process of writing graffiti) anywhere because everywhere was equally prohibited. In the words of surrealist artist, Terrance Lindell, “Graffiti is revolutionary … and any revolution might be considered a crime. People who are oppressed or suppressed need an outlet, so they write on walls—it’s free...” So, in the flick of a switch, space was redefined. Young artists could not only emancipate their world by bringing public art into neighborhoods that couldn’t afford to have it otherwise, they could also paint over the world that excluded them. Places once off limits were now inundated with their words.

The movement spread like wildfire.

By the mid-1980’s, nearly all-major cities had significant graffiti contingencies. At a certain point, graffiti outgrew its reputation as a seedy subculture. In fact, it became trendy and even after trendy, came commercialization(da Silva, 46-47.) By the 1990’s, graffiti began makings its way into galleries, the newest appropriation of high art. Yet, the artists that tended to “strike it big” were by and large formally trained, if not graduates of art schools. The fresher, more potent and politicized graffiti remained on the streets. Graffiti grew, and then grew up, until the culture itself was more a family than a shout in the dark. The marginalized aspect of the art continued not in the eye of the public but the eye of the law.

In Brazil, graffiti made its way to São Paulo long before Rio de Janeiro. According to an art collective called LOST ART that released, Graffiti Brasil, in 2005, São Paulo is the powerhouse and impetus of South American graffiti. From my discussions with Rio-based graffiti artists, the opinion seems to be unanimous. Yet, whether or not South American graffiti is centralized in Sao Paulo does not diminish the fact that graffiti down here is distinctly South American. In an interview philosopher Hygina Bruzzi did with Mineiro graffiti master, Miranda, Miranda said, “O grafite latin-americano tem um sentido completamente differente. Somos muito mais politicos, pois aqui a repressão e o autoritarismo são fortes, sem contra a desigualidade econômica; todo grafiteiro é um desenhista, nem todo desenhista.” (“Latin American graffiti has a completely different feeling to it. We’re more political, because here repression and authoritarianism have a strong presence, not to mention the economic inequality; [for this] every grafftiti artist is an artist but not every artist is a graffiti artist.”) So in South America, outside of a forceful capitalist construct, graffiti had the opportunity to grow beyond the commercial stalemate that it found in the United States. In addition, preoccupied police forces due higher crime rates allow for a more relaxed and accessible creative environment. In fact, many high traffic areas are entrenched in murals, most notably in Jardim Botantico, Urca, Santa Teresa and near the Rodoviaria.

I found in my interviews and discussions with members of Nacão Graffiti, a Rio based graffiti collective, that for them doing the work they do is not always political, not always social and even not always good but it’s innate as air to the way they live. Gais, the youngest of the crew, particularly emphasized that his entire life has revolved around the street and painting there was what he was born to do. Another member of the crew, Ment, mentioned that he saw graffiti has a bridge between classes and spaces in that it allowed graffiti artists of social backgrounds to enter each other’s space. Even more so, they were given the opportunity to leave behind their words, their presence stuck to the walls with some sense of permanence. Fernando Pedro da Silva echoes this thought perfectly in his book, Arte Pública: diálogo com as comunidades, when he writes, “compreendo que a arte do grafite acontece universalmente por um motivo commun, ou seja, a necessidade de o sujeito se expor em público e dizer ao mundo: eu existo.” (“I believe that graffiti happens throughout the world for one common reason, or that is, the necessity for the subject to expose himself in public and say to the world: I exist.”)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bem vindo ao mundo de arte fora da arte.

Isto é o impulso da margem.

Mas o que é a arte marginalizada exatamente?

Basicamente, existem dois campos de pensamento sobre isso. Primeiro, têm as margens da arte, cheias de artistas invocativos que desafiam a fronteira entre o mundo de arte e a arte underground. Também, há a arte das margens. Os artistas deste movimento representam e retratam as periferias da sociedade. Eles dão uma voz aos pobres, os insanos e eles que ficam anônimos intencionalmente.

Via um estudo coesivo destas duas definições, eu darei uma olhada na subcultura carioca e os artistas que o fizeram. Este projeto vai examinar grafitti, mestres de areia, galerias experimentais e muito mais. Da arte que você vê cotidianamente ao que flexiona sua mente. Por utilizar vários movimentos artisticos e sociais como uma estrutura, este estudo revelará a arte marginalizada do Rio de Janeiro e seu proprio lugar na sociedade carioca.

Então vem, encontra os artistas, ouve suas histórias e, se nada mais, aproveita a vista.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Welcome to the world of art outside of art.

This is the impulse of the margin.

But what, you might be asking, is marginalized art exactly?

Well, there are two basic fields of thought on this. First, are the margins of art, full of invocative artists that challenge the frontier between what high art appropriates and what it rejects. Then, there is the art of the margins. These are the artists who represent and portray the peripheries of society, be it the poor, the insane or the intentionally anonymous.

Through a cohesive study of these two definitions, I aim to give a glimpse into the very heart of Rio subculture and those who inhabit it. This project looks at everything from graffiti to sand castles to some of Rio's most experimental galleries. From that which you see everyday to that which flexes the mind. Utilizing various art and social movements as a framework, this study will reveal the unseen, unrecognized and unapologetic art of Rio de Janeiro and its place in carioca society.

So come, meet the artists, hear their stories and, if nothing else, enjoy the view.