Rio’s street art flows from every corner, nook, and cranny of The Marvelous City. The street art has become a part of the city. From the walls of the old streets of Santa Teresa to the fashionable streets of Ipanema, to the poor flavelas. Graffiti and street art are a part of Brazil’s culture, and some of the best examples of it can be found in Rio.
Rio’s streets are covered in street art and graffiti. There are ugly tags that cover every possible piece of free space on a building, and then there are amazing murals that are so well painted that they could be in modern art museums. This is Brazil. It’s a country of contrasts. Right above Leblon, the most expensive neighbourhood in all of South America, there is a flavela where many of the houses wouldn’t even have basic services. These contrasts flow into Rio’s street art scene.
My favourite activity in Rio was just walking around and “graffiti hunting.” I’d have my camera in pocket, and just walk the streets looking for more amazing pieces of Rio graffiti. It felt like a safari, because every time I’d turn a corner I’d find a new piece of amazing art. I’d be in a taxi, and try and remember where we were whenever I’d see a new piece that I hadn’t had the chance to photograph yet. There’s a higher concentration of street art in Rio, than in any other city I’ve visited. My neck was hurting when I took a cab, because the great pieces would pass by my window much too quickly.
The Rio graffiti scene has many facets. Some of the pieces are done legally, or with the help of government in order to prevent the rise of the Pixação (pr: pee-chao,) which is a much less visually appealing. Of course others are done under the cover of nightfall, with the fear of imprisonment, or being beaten at the hands of the police if caught. It’s still an underground cultural movement, even if the murals of some of the famous artists are celebrated.
When I showed my photos to friends, the vibrant colours were one of the most commented upon characteristics of the street art from Brazil. Many of the Brazilian artists incorporate very vibrant colours into their pieces. It is a beautiful relief for the people who have never seen such colourful and amazing pieces of street art.
The themes and inspiration that go into the Rio street art are as varied as the people that live in The Marvelous City. There were traditions in Brazil of painting on the streets before the first piece of hip-hop culture was even seen. Then, once the influence of New York style graffiti was introduced, it was brought to a new level. The indigenous influence on the art can be seen in certain pieces, as can the Catholic religion. It’s an interesting mix of political, religious, social, aboriginal, and hip-hop influence that makes for such an eclectic, vibrant, and fantastic graffiti scene in Rio de Janeiro. From what I’ve heard, it’s even bigger in Sao Paolo. I can’t wait to visit!