Posted: Nov 22 2013
I finally made it to Five Pointz this past weekend, just before the sad and tragic whitewash. Brings this song to mind by LCD Soundsystem. What a spectacular masterpiece of sweat, passion and talent.
Surprising I hadn’t made it there before, since my draw to graffiti art was manifested in many gigs of memory cards roaming around Sao Paulo and Rio, documenting Brazil’s fervent graffiti scene. Hiding my tiny canon powershot under my shirt, sneaking out from behind parked cars, shooting out bus windows, darting from the shadow of a telephone pole for a quick snap. I was determined.
As a gringa with a mildly expensive electronic product in hand, I could have easily gotten robbed. But since luckily I did not, my risk yielded delicious rewards. Vila Madalena, Santa Teresa, Jardins Botanico, and many other neighborhoods where I lived and roamed. I navigated the crumbling walls, highway underpasses, dumpsters, stairwells and many alleys in between.
Here in the U.S., graffiti exploded in the 80s as a grungy downtown Madonna dirty subway car rebellion.
But the largely unintelligable bragadaccio of tagging didn’t give graffiti art a beloved reputation. Without the aesthetically pleasing “artistic” quality, it’s easy to label this graffiti as obnoxious, property destruction, and generally undesirable. Sadly, this has been graffiti’s legacy. Even today as graffiti starts to claim high art space with the likes of Banksy, many people still view his recent NYC visit as disruptive and property damaging.
Brazil has plenty of tagging-- most famously a building in downtown Sao Paulo is tagged from top to bottom-- but Brazil’s graffiti scene is abundantly and ecstatically more about art. There are guidebooks, coffee table books, probably masters thesis’ about Brazil’s graffiti art scene. Brazilian graffiti artists have forged high profile international careers on these walls, including Os Gemeos, twin brothers who have done a few commissioned masterpieces in NYC and Brooklyn. Most recently they collaborated in a somewhat controversial piece with Banksy during his "residency" visit to New York.