From the outskirts of São Paulo to the world. Born in 1975 in Jardim Martinica, a poor neighborhood in the south of São Paulo, the artist Eduardo Kobra has become one of the most recognized muralists today, with works on 5 continents
Since the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, he holds the record for the largest graffiti mural in the world - first with 'Etnias', painted to celebrate the event, with 2,500 square meters; mark surpassed by himself in 2017, with a work in honor of chocolate that occupies a wall of 5,742 square meters on the margins of the Castello Branco Highway, in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo.
One of his most famous works is 'O Beijo', performed in 2012 on the High Line in New York - deleted four years later. It is a colorful reinterpretation of the image made by the American photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995) on August 13, 1945, when the people took to the streets to commemorate the end of World War II. Kobra started drawing on walls in hiding, as a graffiti artist, even 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 even arrested three times for an environmental crime - precisely because of the irregular use of sprays on nearby walls.
In the 1990s, he worked making posters, painting toy scenes and creating decorative images for events in what was the largest amusement park in Brazil. It was the first time that he, the son of a tapestry maker and a housewife, had made money from his images. The work was successful, so much so that it earned him invitations to work in other companies and with advertising agencies.
His urban art began to gain visibility in the following decade. In 2007, he appeared prominently in the media for the first time because of the Muro das Memórias project, in which he immersed himself in the universe of old photos from São Paulo and started to reproduce them in the streets in sepia tones or in black and white, presenting a graffiti style different from the one that spread around the city. This project ended up becoming a brand, the embryo of much of what was to come.
Kobra became an obstinate researcher of historical images and there were many times when such a predilection, printed on gigantic walls, ended up serving to rescue the importance of places and strengthen the sense of belonging of its inhabitants.
Self-taught, the muralist admits that he learned and developed his art by observing the work of artists he admires - from the mysterious exponent of street art Banksy, a British whose identity has never been revealed, to names like the American Eric Grohe (1944-), the also North American Keith Haring (1958-1990) and Mexican Diego Rivera (1886-1957).
The projects started to add up. At Greenpincel, Kobra demonstrates an eloquent concern for environmental causes. These panels, made up of an image and a protest phrase, are strong pamphlets for ecological causes. In this sense, its genuine themes range from fighting predatory fishing to vetoing the exploitation of animals in events such as rodeo. Global warming, water and air pollution and deforestation also appear on their murals.
In 2009, Kobra came across three-dimensional street art paintings. He decided that he could do them too. He dived into his studio, performed several tests and then put his art on the street. First on Avenida Paulista, the symbolic and financial heart of São Paulo. Then, at exhibitions around the world, from festivals in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to events in the United States.
Sua sensibilidade para as mazelas sociais resultou no projeto Realidade Aumentada, em que pintou dez painéis em dez dias em 2015, sempre chamando a atenção para uma questão importante – de uma menina desaparecida a um morador de rua que escreve poemas, passando pela história de uma bailarina de origem pobre da periferia paulistana. Mais recentemente, em uma revisita atualizada às imagens antigas, Kobra criou a série Recortes da História. Em vez de partir de velhas fotografias que retratem a memória de um lugar, o artista volta-se para momentos marcantes da história da humanidade. Assim, cenas como a do ativista norte-americano Martin Luther King (1929-1968) proferindo um discurso contra o racismo ganham os muros pelos traços do artista brasileiro.
In the Olhar a Paz project, Kobra portrays historical personalities who have fought against violence, for the dissemination of a culture of peace throughout the world. It is when Brazilian art endorses - and often echoes - messages of brotherhood and non-violence. He has stamped on walls Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), Holocaust victim Anne Frank (1929-1945), Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai (1997-) and German scientist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), between another examples.
The legacy of his past in hip-hop is revived in the most striking style of his art: hyper-realistic 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 strong and contrasting colors. These colors ended up becoming his main calling card around the world, the striking style of his work. And, to a greater or lesser degree, they started to appear in works from the most diverse phases of his career.
His first mural outside Brazil was in Lyon, France, in 2011. At the time, he had been invited to illustrate a wall in a neighborhood that was undergoing a process of revitalization - that is, he used his Muros da Memória approach to help with historical appreciation of the region. Since then, he has painted in countries like Spain, Italy, Norway, England, Malawi, India, Japan, United Arab Emirates, as well as several North American cities.
He lives in São Paulo, where his studio is also located.