eduardo kobra's massive olympic mural

Brazilian Mural Artist Creates World’s Biggest Mural by One Person

While the Rio Olympic games came with a large amount of controversy, both during the events themselves and in the planning stages, one thing is certain: it gave a much-needed boost to the vibrant public art culture in the country. Brazil has long had a proud and beautiful public art culture, from the beautiful murals throughout Sao Paulo to the many paintings that have since emerged in Rio during and before the Olympics.

But one mural in particular has stood out amongst the others and for one very good reason: it’s literally the largest. The mural, created entirely by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra, spans over 3,000 square meters of wall space on the “Olympic Boulevard,” a three-mile strip that celebrates the many great things for which the Olympics stand for, such as inclusivity, healthy competition, and the many cultures and ethnicities that make the Olympics such an important event.

The mural itself is called “etnias” (“ethnicities” in Portuguese) and represents the many different kinds of people who make up the Oympic athletes. Based on the five Olympic rings, the mural illustrates five different faces from five different continents. The piece is also drawing from a distinctly Brazilian flavour of mural, with bright colours that are typical of street art and murals found throughout the country.

Overall, the painting took Kobra hundreds of hours to complete. It also required a number of supplies, including 100 gallons of white paint, 1,500 litres of coloured paint, and at least 3,500 cans of spray paint. Kobra worked for over 12 hours a day for weeks to ensure the piece was completed in time for the Olympic Games.

Kobra said he was ecstatic about the piece and the end result. “I was really happy I got to display my work here in Rio de Janeiro,” Kobra said in an interview with the Rio’s official website. “This was something I have wanted to do for a long time. We’re living through a very confusing time with a lot of conflict. I wanted to show that everyone is united, we are all connected.”

Besides being a celebration of the Olympic spirit and the inclusivity that the Games try to represent, the piece also celebrates the wonderful diversity found within Brazil’s own public art scene. Brazil has long encouraged street art throughout its cities and the country holds many different records for murals, public art, and other street art-related achievements. Kobra is also one of hundreds of artists who have become internationally famous for their street art, and his piece adds to the large catalogue of art that continues to influence people around the world. While the Rio games weren’t without incident, it is pieces like Kobra’s that celebrate the Olympic spirit and can come to symbolize what the Games can represent.

the last punch cutter at work

The Dying Art of Punches

In the small town of Torino, Italy, there is an aged man by the name of Giuseppe Branchino. In many ways, he represents the Old World aesthetic: smoking a cigarette and drinking hand-crafted espresso, he goes about his profession: letter punching. The art, a dying breed, is as old as the printing press, but as the world moves from the printed page to the computer screen, people like Mr. Branchino are finding their work automated and digitized.

Mr. Branchino, you see, is one of the world’s last punch cutters, the very old art of carving letterforms into small steel billets for use in printing presses. He is the man that makes fonts a physical reality, meticulously carving tiny letters into steel bases to be used in printing presses. The work itself is gruelling and requires the patience of all the saints in the Vatican. Essentially, it involves making tiny, miniscule letters in steel billets. Each letter only takes a few minutes, if done correctly and without any problems, but the pages have to be then set for the printing presses.

Once the head of the prestigious engraving department at type foundry and printing press manufacturer Nebiolo, Mr. Branchino continues his work in his own workshop. He is one of a dwindling few around the world who still carve the tiny letters for printing presses, and his craft will likely be a fun hobby for even fewer within a decade. Nevertheless, he continues his work and creates small, unappreciated beauty with the written word.

While Mr. Branchino’s profession may be going the way of the dodo, his actual work has been documented in a new film directed by Giorgio Affanni and Gabriele Chiappari called “The Last Punchcutter.” The film, which talks to Mr. Branchino about his work, the craft, and the history of letter punching and typesetting, is part of a larger project called “Griffo, the Great Gala of Letters.” The multidisciplinary project is about Francesco Griffo, a 15th-century Venetian punch cutter and type designer who is perhaps most famous for creating the world’s first italics type. Griffo, having lived over 500 years ago, is still an influential figure in modern font creation and typesetting, but his biography remains muddled and inconclusive. But by looking at the history of letter punching, the Griffo project helps to make many of the details more concrete.

Meanwhile, Giuseppe Branchino continues to soldier on, creating the tiny letters that form the basis of our written communication. And while his job is becoming less necessary in the modern age of computer screens, his work is still extremely important. For without the letter punchers, our world would not have the widespread information it has, nor the history that those letters help create through our many written languages.

sucklord

Artist Profile: The Sucklord

Of the many types of artists that roam the streets of New York, there is one that stands separate from the rest. His name is The Sucklord and he has built a mini-empire based on his strange, unique vision of what an action figure can be, and where strange art fits into the art scene.

The Sucklord was born in the West Village, New York City in 1969, the perfect time to see the rise of the action figure in popular culture. When he was eight years old, Star Wars was released in theatres and, along with the film’s box office, a flood of toys entered the marketplace. The Sucklord, then more commonly known as Morgan Phillips, became a lifelong fan of the franchise and was inspired to create his own line of action figures. “I’ve been inclined to make toys my entire life, since I was a kid, since the first Star Wars figures came out,” he said in an interview with The Atlantic. “It became sort of hard-wired into the way I experience the world.”

worlds-most-famous-couple

The Sucklord’s work is perhaps best described as remixing. He will often take discarded and abandoned materials and rework them into something new, something unique. He calls the result “bootleg action figures,” a term he coined when he first started producing his unique figures in earnest in 2005. “Bootleg figures are a lot like sampling in the world of hip-hop, where you take little bits and pieces of different songs, different figures, and recombine them into something new,” he explains. “Hopefully there’s something transformational going on.”

homotrooper

The Sucklord’s work has a hard time being placed in the modern art world but has slowly been gaining notoriety in unconventional places. The Sucklord himself admits that he has a hard time “know[ing] where this stuff belongs.” It’s too “low-brow” for the modern art gallery, with its preconceptions and precarious pretensions, but his figures are a bit too esoteric and adult to find themselves in traditional toy stores. The Sucklord, however, has found two avenues that are bringing his work to the masses: the internet and reality television.

right-on

You can find much of The Sucklord’s work on his site, Suckdelic, where he sells his work, blogs, and profiles many other artistic endeavours. He has also made several appearances on reality TV shows, including Gallery Girls. The show’s stars, who own a store in New York called End of Century, stocked his wares and profiled him on the show. He has also appeared on a number f other shows, all of which feature his eclectic work.

One of the things that make The Sucklord’s work so interesting is its placement. Rather than avoiding commercialism, like how Banksy tries to sidestep capitalism and art, The Sucklord has embraced a modern approach, one that circumvents the normal, established avenues in favour of something more suited to his particular work. By making his own path, he can control his art’s distribution without compromising his vision.

artscape 2016 website front page

Street Art Festival: Artscape

Scandinavia is famous for a great number of things. Vikings, great fish, socialism. They’re also home to a young street art festival that’s been steadily growing in size, scope, and ambition for the past couple of years. Started in 2014 in Malmö, Sweden, the Artscape Street Art Festival creates new public art to compete with the billboards and advertisements that are scattered throughout the city. To use their own words: “Great art shouldn’t be confined to only galleries and museums!”

mural by rone being painted on side of a tall building during artscape 2016

The festival began as Scandinavia’s only street art festival and focused on giving space to artists from around the world. When the festival was in full  swing during the summer months of July and August, you could find a great number of artists from around the world. Australia’s Rone, for example, could be seen painting a giant mural on the side of a 12-storey apartment building. The UK’s Cityzen Kane was there as well, along with Sweden’s own Yash. The size and scope of the murals varied greatly, but in the two years that Artscape was in Malmö, the amount of visible and beautiful street art increased substantially.

completed mural by rone at artscape 2016

by Rone

Artscape, the namesake nonprofit organization for the festival, doesn’t just put on one event per year, however, they are active in Sweden and Europe all year long. In fact, they recently unveiled a brand new art project that “remixes” one of Malmö’s oldest landmarks: the famous griffin statue in the city’s square. Constructed in 1437, the griffin was a gift from King Eric XIII to the city, whose coat of arms includes a griffin. Artscape, thinking that 600 years was long enough before doing some a little different, hired three artists to create a new approach to the statue.

mural by zadok from artscape 2015

by Zodak

The three artists, Zadok, Christina Angelina, and Bless, used a variation of the Exquisite Corpse technique, popularized by the surrealist movement, to each create a component of the new Malmö griffin. Each artist took a turn creating a new part of the griffin, with the next artist then adding their concept afterwards. According to Artscape, they “decided to add a humble human to symbolise the people of Malmö. After creating three striking characters, each in a totally different style, the different segments of the wall were switched around to form three new incarnations of the city’s symbol.”

mural by bless at artscape

Bless

The Artscape Street Art Festival moved for 2016 to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city next to Stockholm, and has expanded in kind. With double the population over Malmö, Gothenberg represents a brand new canvas on which some of the world’s, and especially Europe’s, greatest street artists can create, collaborate, and share with people around the world. In just two short years, Artscape transformed Malmö. Now Gothenberg could experience a similar transformation.