Monday, March 21, 2011

The Twins

New York’s South Bronx has one thing it can be proud of. 
Or, as others might say, something it really has to answer for. 
For it was there, in the 1970’s, that the four forms of musical and artistic expression collectively known as Hip Hop arose. 

You've heard the music. It's commonly referred to as rap.

And you've probably seen the dance form, called breaking.

DJing, mercifully, is the easiest to avoid.

But graffiti is not - and it has changed the landscape of many of the great cities of the world.

Except Singapore where they fling you in jail for it and throw away the key.

No such luck in São Paulo, where the municipal government has practically given up on preventing it. 
Artistic parallels are often drawn between the energy of São Paulo today and the energy that existed in the South Bronx of the 1970’s. 
Brazilian social scientists have an explanation for it: Poverty and uneven distribution of income have fed folkloric vandalism and stimulated the creation of graffiti as an urban sport for the disenfranchised.
But now, all of a sudden, we’re being praised as the new shrine of graffiti and a center of inspiration for graffiti artists worldwide.


Enter The Twins. (Os Gêmeos)
No, not the baseball team from Minnesota.

The Twins I’m referring to are Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, identical twin brothers from São Paulo.

They’ve been painting graffiti since 1987, when they were 13.

And, these days, they are doing it on walls and buildings all over the world. 

Their work is in Miami, in Manhattan, in Brooklyn, in San Francisco, in the Netherlands, in Paris, in Rome – all sorts of places.
And they get paid for it.

Even by the municipal government of São Paulo, who invited them to decorate the trains of the subway system. (Can you see New York doing that?)

Their subjects range from family portraits, to Brazilian folklore.

And are often commentaries on political or social aspects of the society.

To those of you out there who’ve had your children busted for tagging with spray paint: Rejoice!

You can now hope they’ll make a name for themselves as artists.

Leighton – Monday


  1. I'd consider what the twins are doing IS art. But what's happening in my neighborhood re graffiti is vandalism related to drug dealing. It isn't pretty or charming or quirky. It's gangs defining their boundaries and issuing challenges at the expense of small businesses and homeowners. We do have mural artists who, like the twins, beautify or make interesting the mundane walls, but the taggers can't let that alone either: Westgate mural falls victim to graffiti Camp Chase is a Civil War cemetery.

  2. Hi Leighton,

    There's a bit of very cool graffiti in Chicago, it seems to be more popular in the Hispanic areas. I've seen some beautiful work done by kids backed by schools & churches. I think it's nice.

    The twins' work is beautiful, I think it's great they're making money.


  3. The trains in New York City are decorated with graffiti but it is the hit and run kind done by gangs who want to leave their "tags". Their artistic merit is limited by how long the taggers can spray before the can is empty.

    Graffiti has been around for at least two thousand years. A tour under St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is fascinating. We were there in 2000 and the tours were becoming popular; now it is necessary to book a tour months in advance. Only 120 people per day are allowed to take the tour which starts underground on what was once a busy street. One of the things that is pointed out is a wall with graffiti, writing by any means on a public wall, telling Christians the location of St. Peter's burial.

    Most graffiti is vandalism. Even the officially commissioned artwork is a problem. So much of it is topical that its impact is short-lived.

    Getting back to Rome, the Scavi (necropolis) tour starts behind St. Peter's and winds along the streets of what was the Vatican Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. It ends under the main altar of the Basilica, at the tomb of St. Peter. I think it was the most interesting thing we did in a city that is nothing but interesting.


  4. I'm a little late, but I love the graffiti these two men create. I know it makes San Francisco more exciting. As are your books which I am now reading compulsively. Thank you

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