This August the ICA will present the first solo exhibition in the United States of works by the Brazilian brothers Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo. Best known as Os Gêmeos, the twins are a major force in graffiti and urban art. The twins have a deep bond; they are tireless collaborators and say that they often experience the same dreams. In an effort to share their dreams with the world, they depict their visions in surreal paintings, sculpture, and installations: human figures with removable faces, exploding bursts of color, and room-size heads installed with shanty interiors.
Os Gêmeos draw not only from dreams, but also from their surroundings, incorporating these elements to forge a unique visual style. Their narrative work is a visual synthesis of their everyday lives: the color and chaos of Brazil—particularly in their neighborhood in São Paulo, Cambuci—or yellow-skinned youth in red hoodies breaking into train yards and painting in subway tunnels. A common motif depicts several graffiti taggers garbed in brightly patterned clothes stacked atop one another to reach an impossibly high spot. In contrast to the more contemporary urban themes, rural Brazil has an equally significant presence in their work. Carnivals, music, and folk art fascinate the twins and inspire fantastical portraits of musicians and paintings of processions and festivals—all of which are based on their own photographs.
Os Gêmeos date their artistic beginnings to 1987 when hip-hop invaded Brazil. The music and images of youth dancing and painting graffiti, transmitted via photo books and films, left an indelible mark on the twins. But in the late 1980s, the lack of information about art and art-making materials—Brazilian spray paint was expensive and inferior in quality—forced the artists to improvise and create their own visual style. They began painting New York graffiti–style murals with house paint, brushes, and rollers instead of spray paint. In 1993 while in Brazil, Os Gêmeos met then emerging artist Barry McGee. He provided magazines, materials, and information and began to paint with the twins. McGee was making a living as an artist, a fact that inspired the twins to quit their banking jobs and focus entirely on working as artists. Today they are two of the most prominent figures in public art, having succeeded in creating large-scale murals and painting public transportation throughout Brazil.
To Os Gêmeos labels—as well as reality—are not important. They do not consider themselves street artists, they “just want to paint.” Their art in public spaces, which they refer to simply as graffiti, is a means to share their work with a broad audience. This exhibition will highlight the multiple influences and recurring visual themes found in the artists’ paintings and sculptures, and allow audiences an opportunity to experience their richly fantastical work. As part of the exhibition, the artists will visit Boston in August 2012 to paint a large-scale, site-specific mural.