Brazil's vibrant street art scene has been producing compelling work both in the streets and in the galleries for years. The current wave of social and political unrest that the country has been experiencing seems to have emboldened those who would utilize the streets as a canvas andmagnified the timeliness of their actions.
Two Brazilian artists we've been watching thrive amid this chaos are Rodrigo Level and Gabriel Kieling. These artists share more than the primarily black and white palette of Brazilian Cordel Art, they both pass freely between the street and the gallery scene without compromising their style or the depth of their messaging.
In his youth Rodrigo Level was influenced by the colors covering the walls of his neighborhood of São Paulo. He started painting large-scale graffiti based works on the streets of his hometown in the mid 1990s. Over time his paintings evolved from stylized letter forms to abstract shapes which eventually became building blocks of other images. And that palette that had first inspired his work was refined down to black and white, punctuated with subtle pops of sophisticated color.
The tranquility that Level's paintings project is no accident. From the lines to the colors, all is chosen to project the calming harmony that is missing from much of contemporary life. It is the artist's intention that these paintings are meant not to capture or harness this energy, but rather to project it outward. As Level states:"Every energy produced in a positive way and well applied generates everlasting waves. The positive efforts of a generation will always impact positively on future society"
Gabriel Kieling is an architect. A native of São Paulo, he was born and raised in that city's downtown. Consequently he finds that the city has had a profound impact on both his work and his art. His other influences are Cordel Art and European artists from the early part of of the last century like Gustav Klimt and Egon Shiele.
For Kieling the progression of his art began indoors through woodcut, stencil and screen printing. The journey then migrated into the street as he sought to express himself in "a scale larger than the paper." Initially he wheat pasted his pre-painted images, but eventually decided to forgo the paper and paint directly on walls.
Working in an almost exclusively monochromatic color palette, his work blends clean, precise lines and geometric shapes with the sensuality of the female form. The resulting images are surprisingly intimate and mesmerizing. Kieling says that the black and white of his art "exposes opposites: the contrast of day and night, the dilemma of life and death, the duality of the universe, harmony and chaos".
We couldn't resist the opportunity to partner with our friends over at Holiday Exploits to bring these two incredibly talented artists to Chicago for a project that they are titling EQUILIBRIO (Portuguese for equilibrium). While Level and Kieling are in Chicago Holiday will be working with them on printed editions, Maxwell Colette Gallery will host an exhibition of new work, and we will all be working together to facilitate some great outdoor installations!
EQUILIBRIO kicks off August 1st, and culminates with the opening reception at Maxwell Colette Gallery on Friday, August 9 from 6pm - 10pm.