The Exhibition: Larger Than Life
Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra is coming up with an exhibition of canvases in Wynwood, the famous Miami neighborhood known as the world center of street art. The show, which should have about 30 screens painted by Kobra, is his first after 10 years. And it comes after the Brazilian artist was named personality of the year in New York – due to the 19 murals he spread through the Big Apple last year.
Scheduled to open in March, the exhibition will take place in one of the three official galleries in Wynwood Walls, a sprawling region of the street art universe. The spaces function as cultural centers open to the general public. "I've been involved with this place for at least a decade and have a deep respect for the story and for what Wynwood represents for the appreciation of street art. Showcasing my work at this address is an honor and a privilege" the artists says.
To honor the invitation, Kobra is selecting 30 of his works. Most of them are screens that the Brazilian painted as studies for the immense murals he has spread across the five continents of the world - with pacifist messages, historical scenes, and environmental concerns. "I intend to showcase, for example, works that became known as the David I painted in Carrara, Italy, and the Salvador Dalí I made in Murcia, Spain," he exemplifies. "But there will also be works never done before, from studies I did for the New York murals project, all made last year."
The screens will have several sizes, from 30 inches to 10 feet long.
From the outskirts of São Paulo to the world: Born in 1975 in Jardim Martinica, a poor neighborhood in the south of the city of São Paulo, the artist Eduardo Kobra became one of the most recognized muralists, with more than 500 works done on Brazilian streets and works on all the five continents.
Since the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, he holds the record for the world's largest graffiti mural - first with “Ethnicities”, painted to celebrate the event, with 32,300 square feet. He surpassed his own record in 2017 with a wall of 62,000 square feet in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo, Brazil.
Kobra began drawing on walls as an act of vandalism during his adolescence. The taste for spontaneous street art was already visible in the boy, who collected warnings for unauthorized interventions at school and was arrested three times for environmental crime - precisely because of the irregular use of sprays on nearby walls.
In the 1990s, he worked on posters, painted carnival rides, and created decorative images for events at then Brazil's largest amusement park. It was the first time that he, son of a tapestry and a housewife, made money with his images. The work was successful, so much that it brought invitations to work also for other companies and marketing agencies.
Kobra’s art began to gain visibility in the beginning of the 21st century. In 2007, he appeared prominently in the media for the first time because of the Wall of Memories project, in which he immersed himself in the universe of old photos of São Paulo and reproduced them in the streets in sepia or black and white, presenting a unique graffiti style through the city.
This project became a brand, the embryo of much of what would follow.
Kobra became an obstinate researcher of historical images and often such predilection, painted on gigantic walls, ended up rescuing the importance of places and strengthening the sense of belonging of the locals.
Self-taught, Kobra always says that he developed his technique by observing the work of artists he admires - from the mysterious exponent of street art Banksy, the British whose identity has never been revealed, to the Americans Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) and Keith Haring (1958-1990), and the group of New York street artists created in the 1970s. He is also a great admirer if the work of the Mexican Diego Rivera (1886-1957).
The projects started to add up. In Greenpincel, Kobra demonstrates an eloquent concern with environmental causes. These murals, consisting of an image and a protest phrase, are strong pamphlets for ecological causes. In this sense, its genuine themes range from combating predatory fishing to vetoing the exploitation of animals at events such as rodeos. Global warming, water and air pollution, and deforestation also appear in his murals.
More recently, in an updated approach of the ancient images, Kobra created the series Historical Clippings. Instead of starting from old photographs that depict a place, the artist turns to remarkable moments in the history of humanity. Thus, scenes like the American activist Martin Luther King (1929-1968) uttering a speech against racism gain the walls by the hands of the Brazilian artist.
In the Looking at the Peace project, Kobra portrays historical personalities who have fought against violence, spreading the culture of peace throughout the world. This is when the Brazilian artist endorses - and often echoes - messages of brotherhood and non-violence. He has already portrayed the Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the Holocaust victim Anne Frank (1929-1945), the Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai (1997-), and the German scientist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), among other examples.
The heritage of his hip-hop past is revived in his most striking style: hyperrealistic images, often based on photographs of personalities such as the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), the Spanish artist Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and the Brazilian musician Chico Buarque (1944-), covered with bright and contrasting colors. These colors eventually became his trademark around the world and the representations of the outstanding style of his work. And to a greater or lesser extent, they began to appear in works from the most diverse stages of his career.
His first mural outside Brazil was in Lyon, France. At that time, he had been invited to illustrate a wall of a neighborhood that had undergone a revitalization process. He used his Wall of Memory series to recover the historical value of the region. Since then, he has painted in countries such as Spain, Italy, Norway, England, Malawi, India, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and several North American cities.
In 2019, he carried out the project Colors for Liberty, in which he spread 19 murals with pacifist messages along the city of New York. The works had strong repercussion in the media and made Kobra personality of the year chosen by the magazine Time Out.
Eduardo Kobra lives in São Paulo, where his atelier is located.