On a recent research trip to Sao Paulo, I was told not to roam the streets snapping photos with my iPhone in hand. Not just because of the massive social inequality – but also the crazy roads, the prevalent drug problems and violent gangs – although when wandering around the humid maze it’s easy to forget this and be absorbed in the energy and gritty beauty of the city.
Sao Paulo is famous for its weird and wonderful murals that scatter the streets and create a tapestry of artistic color. But there is another iconic street art style that is sprawled onto almost every wall of every building – that is pixação.
This black type is inspired by political messages written on the walls in tar against the dictatorship of the 1930s-1950s. The thin, sharp, black lines and jagged edges may not be as beautiful as some of the more illustrious and colourful counterparts, but this does not mean it lacks in cultural significance.
This style of calligraphy – in part, like most – is an attempt at notoriety. It is also a revolt against the city – a social statement of the industrialized injustice, the regeneration which had a negative effect on the working-class population. In fact, Brazil’s unrest is a story that is currently dominating news headlines on a global scale.
Although these (estimated 5000) artists may be on another continent, the anarchic expression can now be seen much closer to home. Designers have commercialized this raw style, with brands such as Puma and their film on the Pixadores of Sao Paulo all scaling buildings wearing Puma sneakers and the plethora of fonts that can create an edgy, counter-culture aesthetic.
Like the uncomfortable paintings of Lucian Freud show – beauty is not just skin deep. If you take the time to look past face value, you will discover many truths hidden in the shadows of the Pixacao, luring you in and ensuring you return to discover more.
Blog written by Liam.