Brazilian Artist Honors Bob Dylan
A team of six artists, led by Brazilian Eduardo Kobra, are painting a mural portrait of Bob Dylan that will be 60 feet high (20 meters) and 150 feet wide (50 meters). The painting will fill an entire side of a building in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Bob Dylan, considered to be one of the greatest American songwriters, was born in the state of Minnesota in the city of Duluth, about 300 km from Minneapolis, Minnesota’s largest city.
The U$50,000 art project was commissioned by the building’s owner, Goldman Sachs, to help the city revitalize its downtown cultural district. The building, with an Art Deco design, is located on the southeast corner of Hennepin Avenue and South 5th Street.
The work will unfold over the next two weeks as Brazilian Eduardo Kobra and his team of five other artists — three from Brazil and two from Minnesota — attack the blank wall using boom lifts and air compressors.
Kobra, whose portfolio stretches across three continents, was chosen for his vibrant style and international renown. He said he appreciates Bob Dylan as an iconic figure with roots in Minnesota, including the same street where the mural will rise, Hennepin Avenue, where Dylan once owned the Orpheum Theatre.
“All of my work is based in memory, history, and personalities that are important,” said Kobra. His past murals include a portrait of Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai that scales a wall in Rome, and an adaptation of the iconic V-J Day photograph, showing a Times Square kiss, that overlooks the High Line in New York City. Kobra, who got his start as a graffiti artist in São Paulo, has completed more than 10 US projects, though this will be his largest outside of Brazil.
Kobra wants the Bob Dylan design to remain a surprise, but he invites anyone to watch the process unfold. He envisions a triptych of Dylan, with three pensive images in black and white mirroring the singer’s longevity. Two will capture his younger years while a third shows a more seasoned Dylan brazenly wrinkled and wearing his iconic white hat.
In the style of Kobra’s other work, the portraits will be magnified by a panoply of colorful geometric patterns and a cutout of an electric guitar. The mural will include lyrics from Dylan’s anthem “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Twin Cities photographer Bill Hickey will document the process in a time-lapse video. “This is going to be one of our biggest projects and in a short amount of time,” said one of Kobra’s assistants, Agnaldo Brito Pereira. “It’s very challenging.”
“We want Minneapolis to be a 24-hour city,” said Joan Vorderbruggen, arts coordinator for the district. “Arts and culture should be a part of every step you take.” Vorderbruggen said the project managers considered other subjects, such as unsung heroes of social justice. They selected Dylan because of his widespread appeal, in the belief that accessibility is central to public art. “People wanted something that brings people together,” said Hennepin Trust spokeswoman Karen Nelson. “We’re honoring our history.”
The spectacle will give the commercialized corner a pop of culture, local artists hope, as well drawing admiration from afar for Kobra’s work. “I think it will add a level of interest and coolness and street cred to downtown,” said Erin Sayer, one of the two Minnesota artists on the project. She has seen Dylan live about 20 times and also has painted him.
The other Minnesotan, Yuya Negishi, a native of Japan who moved to Minneapolis in 2010, sees the project as an opportunity to celebrate world-class artists while also fostering homegrown talent. “I think we have such a big art community,” he said. “It’s going to make history for Minneapolis.”
Kobra’s murals appear all over the world, where he has created images of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama among others. But, in his native city of São Paulo, Kobra combines his skilled use of color and imagery also to confront Brazil’s issues. “I’m always going to paint,” Kobra said, “but we artists can’t be silent and close our eyes to the issues going on around us.”
After he finishes the Bob Dylan mural, he’ll return to Brazil to continue working on his newest project, which he calls São Paulo E10, which is based on stories told to him by the children of São Paulo’s favelas. The motivation behind São Paulo E 10 was not just about creating something visually appealing to add to São Paulo’s thriving street art culture. Kobra listened to stories of children in favelas and created murals to address the misuse of political power. He addresses homelessness and unemployment that are currently on the rise in Brazil. For Kobra, being a street artist is also about creating hope, awareness, and inspiration.
[Research: Minneapolis Star Tribune, Huffington Post, and the Associated Press. For more information, visit eduardokobra.com]