our first guest blogger will be my brother, josh, who is a strength coach at the university of memphis. a couple of weeks ago he went to sao paolo and rio de janeiro with the soccer team and besides coaching, eating and immersing himself in the fanaticism that is brazilian professional futbol, he discovered some of the best graffiti i've ever seen. so i asked him to write a short guest blog post about the graffiti he found lining the streets and buildings of brasil.
looking through the eyes of a tourist, brasil is enormous mountains and a deep hazy forest, then a peaceful white beach and dark blue ocean, and once I became immersed in their society and culture, the serenity of the place had me at peace. then wonder showed me another beautiful bit of scenic pleasure: graffiti.
I first noticed the tags and murals when leaving the airport of Sao Paulo but didn’t think too much of it as I was just outside of the fast-paced downtown area, and just like all downtown cities in America there was graffiti posted around everywhere, whether it was a gang sign or a full side of a building covered with a mural. as I was heading back to the airport I told zach I’d get some pictures for him because there was graffiti around and in random places that was pretty cool. So, I took some pictures from the bus and tried to capture every painting done in color surrounded by tags in an array of places, homes, businesses, vehicles, light poles, and on a building where I’d stare and try and figure out how someone wrote vertical on a 10-story building from level 4 to 8 not next to any windows. I had some good photos from Sao Paulo, but I could not anticipate what Rio was going to have to offer.
after checking in at the hotel, conveniently located on the beach, actually across the street like the rest of the hotels on the beach (unlike in America where people are so lazy we have to plant the resort right in the sand right next to the water in fear of some random fatty having to tread more than 50 paces from their room down and through the sand because we all know how hard it is to walk in sand and I’m sure being obese doesn’t help the matter). the long street right around the corner was filled with locals, covered in shops, markets, and eateries, with a healthy splattering of graffiti murals, each one a different style than the next. there were only a few paintings that were completed by the same artist (huge assumption here, but that’s what it looked like and it's not like I could stop somebody and ask them in portuguese). the vast majority of the graffiti that I’d seen up to this point had been from the bus, but now on the streets I was up close and personal with these fascinating works of art and there were still the plain black scribbles on the surroundings as well.
I decided to be adventurous and walk around the beach area by myself to seek out some more graffiti. I asked our guide if it was safe to be by myself in the streets of Rio and she seemed fully confident that no one would mess with me because I’m bigger than you. I made my way toward the pier where the beach ended and saw more black cats than paintings so I continued on towards the bridge where I remembered seeing a couple tags from the bus. when I finally made it there I had stumbled upon a goldmine of various paintings by different artists on the supports beneath the overpass. my initial impression of graffiti was that it was everywhere, but you had to seek out the good stuff. at least that was my impression until I was pleasantly surprised as I traveled through the downtown streets of Rio by bus. if there was a wall, it had paint on it. If it was a side of a store or a market or a restaurant or a school, it didn’t matter, it was covered in amazing and finely rendered paintings. i couldn’t get enough pictures downtown. it was amazing. the variety was vast in themes and messages, sizes, colors and writing styles. And each one was more exciting than the last.
the only way this could possibly be appreciated is through days of travel by foot through the downtown streets of Rio where the graffiti brings an added feature of beauty to an already mysticly scenic country. in my opinion, if you're into graffiti paintings then your time and money would be well spent on a trip to Rio de Janeiro, brasil. and while youre there enjoy the beautiful people and their cultures. i'm saving my money and learning Portuguese.
-- josh medler, march 2012