Brazilian Graffiti Artists
With the number of Brazilians attending college having doubled over the past decade, it seems the gateway to a prosperous career and successful life is a university education.
Certainly, no one can argue with the value of education. In general, educated people earn more than those without an education. Educated individuals make better citizens because they are more politically informed, etc. Some observers have noted a connection between Brazil’s mass demonstrations and the increase in its university population.
Even former President Lula, in an essay published in The New York Times stated that the street “demonstrations are largely the result of social, economic and political successes. It’s good news that our young people want to fight to ensure that social change continues at a more intense pace.” Lula goes on to say that it’s natural for young people who have achieved more than their parents to desire even more.
However, just as every rule in grammar has an exception, there are exceptions to the education rule. Not all the most successful people in the world are university educated. For example, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the world’s richest man, never finished his university education. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, dropped out of Harvard to spend more time developing his Internet company, as seen in the film “The Social Network” (A Rede Social). Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer was a college “dropout” as was Michael Dell, founded of Dell Computer. In fact, there are more than 30 billionaires in the world today who never finished college, including fashion mogul Ralph Lauren, media magnate Ted Turner, and Brazil’s richest man, Eike Batista.
In the world of art, the exceptions — successful artists who work outside the established art world – are common. Many artists are self-taught and even some of the most successful had no formal training. The most obvious example of artists who work outside the traditional boundaries of the mainstream art world would be in the field of graffiti art. In fact, it is only recently that outdoor public art, known as graffiti, has been recognized as belonging to the art world.
Some social critics object to the classification of graffiti as art because it is often inscribed on public or government property. Many cities have passed laws against defacing public property in an attempt to halt graffiti. Graffiti ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, and it has existed since the dawn of civilization, dating back to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire.
Nevertheless, the art world now recognizes the genius of some graffiti artists, and in some places they are invited to contribute their work for public consumption. In Brazil, many graffiti artists are recognized for their talents and allowed to create their colorful drawings without interference from the police, despite laws prohibiting it. Graffiti art, which often reflects an anti-authoritarian message, has inhabited numerous fields of interest from politics to humor to rock music, such as the famous graffiti message written in the London subway, “Clapton is God” referring to the British electric guitarist Eric Clapton.
Nunca, Os Gêmeos, Vitché and Herbert Baglione are among the most famous Brazilian graffiti artists today. Their work, which can be found in cities all over the world, announces the acceptance of graffiti as fine art, especially when the Tate Modern Museum in London put on a major exhibition of street art in 2008.
However, even the most famous graffiti artists continue to create their art outdoors. “The best graffiti artists are still almost all working on the street, illegally,” says Rafael Schacter, an honorary research fellow in anthropology at London’s University College. Schacter is the editor of “The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti,” to be published by Yale University Press in September of this year.
Brazilian graffiti artist Vitché, whose work is featured in the book, says that when he began making street art he was protesting the destruction of nature in favor of big cities. Now his art is influenced by the political climate and corruption in Brazil: “I’ve connected with this situation since I was born.”
Michael Rubin is an American living in Curitiba.