Why Brazil's street art beats its street parties
It's best known for samba and sequins but its urban landscape is just as vibrant as its carnival
The 2017 Rio Carnival winds up on Saturday with the Champion's Parade. At times like this the popular press tends to reduce Brazil's fascinating culture to samba bands and feathered carnival queens. However, as our book Brazil makes clear, the country’s visual culture is hugely varied and diverse. And its street art, according to Brazilian writer Marcelo Rezende, is one particularly exciting part of this nation's culture.
“In the streets of São Paulo examples of street art are more common than trees,” Rezende explains in our book, Brazil. “São Paulo’s city hall even distributes a graffiti tour guide.”
Not all types of graffiti are equally open to artistic appreciation. Rezende highlights pixo, Brazil’s own distinct style of protest graffiti, which originated in the clandestine slogans painted up on many city’s suburbs, decrying the military dictatorship of the late 1960s.
“When a group of São Paulo pixadores was invited to participate in the 7th Berlin Biennale,” writes Rezende, “they ended up tagging the curator himself.”
Fortunately other, more visually appealing Brazilian street artists pose less of a threat. Take Derlon Almeida, whose angular, hard-edged works are inspired by the traditional, woodcut-print comics, called cordels, he read while growing up in Recife, north west of Rio.
“Almeida does not intend to modernize this inheritance,” the text in Brazil explains, “but to duplicate it, mixing in a unique blend of Brazilian popular culture, iconography and pop art.” He has also managed to spread it across the globe, painting pieces in Great Britain, Portugal, France, and, of course, in his home country. He even installed one on the walls of Brazilian chef Alex Atala’s São Paulo’s Dalva e Dito restaurant – a fine example of good graphic and gastronomic taste working together in perfect accord.
You can see more of his work and plenty of other Brazilian visual treasures in our book Brazil. Buy a copy here. For more on Alex Atala, get D.O.M. Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients; and for more on the political side of street art get Visual Impact. And if you're into graphics check out our forthcoming book Graphic: 500 Designs That Matter.