Search View Archive

Street Art Brazil

True to the spirit and intentions of street art, this vast and indeed wild exhibition organized by the city administration of Frankfurt took place everywhere but within the clean confines of the museum itself. The city of Frankfurt became the canvas upon which works were executed by about a dozen Brazilian taggers, writers, and graffiti artists who represented a plethora of genres. The artworks virtually took over the city of Frankfurt, which willingly offered itself up for experimentation.  

Alexandre Orion, Frankfurter Sparkasse, Frankfurt. 2013. Courtesy: Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt and Alexandre Orion. Photo: Norbert Miguletz.

Herbert Baglione, Hauptwache, Frankfurt 2013 �© Herbert Baglione photo: �© Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2013 Foto: Norbert Miguletz

This very imaginative concept was realized by Carolin Köchling, the author of an insightful and gorgeously illustrated catalogue, and supported by Dr. Max Hollein, the director of three museums in Frankfurt and someone who has changed the cultural map of Frankfurt more than once. Köchling prepared intensely, travelling repeatedly to São Paolo and Rio mostly, immersing herself in the culture of street artists, and getting to know each of them and the history of their practices. She applied a systematic and rigorous method of investigation to this art form, which has previously rarely been treated as worthy of serious academic consideration. She then invited a dozen artists to Frankfurt, allowing them to stay as long as needed to perform their monumental interventions. Alexandre Orion took a bank as his canvas, painting an evanescent guru-like figure meditating while seated in the Padmasana (lotus position), wearing baggy fatigues and combat boots and holding stones. This mesmerizing figure, hovering 40 feet above street level, is both ethereal and menacing, inspiring and disturbing, and yet suffused with a hearty and healthy sense of humor. The acerbic irony of this work points to the layers of complexities and contradictions in our daily lives. Herbert Baglione took over the very surface of a plaza and painted arabesque-like humanoid forms that meander through the moving crowds and meld with the shadows of by-passers to create an extraordinary wave of liquid, biomorphic forms. Speto, who suffuses his work with spiritual and symbolic content, was happy to be offered the façade of an Evangelical Church for his work: it indeed filled the entire tall façade of the church. Finally, Tinho himself chose a police station as his “ground.”. Seemingly drawing on a comic-book aesthetic and covering the entire façade, the image of two children standing or crouching on a pile of books at first provokes surprise and laughter. But a deeper reading of the artist’s deeper intentions is sobering. As Köchling explained in an interview:

He began with search ads for missing children printed in church bulletins in the early 1990s. His paintings of crouching, weeping, and bound figures of children which you find all over the city of São Paulo provide another medium for their dissemination. Even though he deals with certain aesthetics and chooses a visual medium for expression, the motivation of what he is doing is not about being recognized as a painter. It is a political act.

Speto, church of St. Matthew, Frankfurt 2013 �© Speto photo: �© Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2013 photo: Norbert Miguletz

Freshly imported from Brazil, most of the art presented in the streets of Frankfurt has this double edge: fun but provocative; ironic, but mordantly and incisively so; beautiful and yet politically engaged. In the end, this inexhaustible and easily exhausting exhibition takes place rain or shine in the streets of Frankfurt, and embodies the courage of those artists and curators who search for the unknown. In his book The Art of Loving, Frankfurt school member Erich Fromm couched the paradox very well: “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” (Kreativität erfordet den Mut, Sicherheiten loszulassen.) Too often museum exhibitions of contemporary art rely excessively on the commercial gallery system, a process which risks becoming cliché. The more radical goal of the Schirn Kunsthalle involved rethinking the very nature of such exhibitions. The results are visually, socially, and politically astounding: they force us to reconsider and expand upon the traditional notion of the boundaries of art. Street Art Brazil is destined to be vastly influential.

Tinho, former police headquarters, Frankfurt, 2013. Courtesy: Walter Nomura aka Tinho and Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Photo: Norbert Miguletz.

The catalogue : Street-Art Brazil by Carolin Köchling (Frankfurt: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter König, 2013)


Joachim Pissarro

Joachim Pissarro has been the Bershad Professor of Art History and Director of the Hunter College Galleries, Hunter College, New York, since 2007. He has also held positions at MoMA, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery. His latest book on Wild Art (with co-author David Carrier) was published in fall 2013 by Phaidon Press.

David Carrier

David Carrier is writing a book about the historic center of Naples.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2013

All Issues