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Alex Hornest (Onesto)


Alex Hornest was born in Sao Paulo in 1972. Painter, sculptor and multimedia artist, he started bombing the streets of Sao Paulo in 1984, signing as Onesto, his street name. 1993 was the year of his first exhibitions, although, already famous through his ironic characters painted all over the city. As described in his resume, his work tries “to discuss the relationship between cities and their inhabitants”, observing the most common moments of the everyday life and drawing those instants wherever he is. No sketches, just improvisation, “looking to capture the essence of people and what moves them in the midst of chaos, unrest and the routine of their day to day”.

His works have been collected by some galleries such as Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York, the Museu Afro Brazil and the MAC in Sao Paulo. He also published the book ONESTO in 2008 (published by Zupi Design e Editora Ltda., BR) and many of his works were photographed for graffiti books such as STREET ART – The Graffiti Revolution (Edited Cedar Lewisohn, Published by Tate Modern, UK, 2008) or GRAFFITI BRASIL (Edited Tristan Manco/Caleb Neelon/Lost Art – Published by Thames & Hudson, UK, 2006).

With more than 10 individual exhibitions between Brazil and the United States as well as many collective exhibitions all over the world, Alex Hornest is one of the stars of Street Art in Brazil. He also works as a video clip maker and an illustrator.

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His studio is clean, clear, white walls, white couch, a computer, some natural light, minimalist. On one side, many of his burlesque characters in different formats, textures and materials are exposed on a table and on the floor. Welcomed in a very casual way, we are invited to sit down, facing his artworks. Onesto speaks little English so the conversation was based on a mix of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French with English.

He chooses to work by himself and gets all his inspiration from the street, by looking at people standing around him, the way in which they behave, the relationship between them. When he paints, he does not sketch before. He has a little book in which he draws all day, anything he finds interesting. It’s a repertory with dates and hours and his drawings all over it. He doesn’t care about other people’s judgements, he just likes to paint what he wants. The trips his made and the artists he met while travelling helped him to evolve in his art. He also respects the Pixaçãos for their fight, but he is not one of them.

Visually, his works are easily recognizable: black outline of the character, skinny legs and arms, black hair, very big and disproportionate hands and central body. The little painted “people” are represented in different sizes, playing on the perspective effect. The background of the canvas is often coloured in orange and black towns. In the street, the compositions are more focused on the characters themselves.

For many years, Onesto refused to sell his works to galleries, but there was a lot of demand so he finally accepted to be represented. What he shows in galleries is very different from his work on the streets. Of course, his black and white, sometimes orange characters and his colourful backgrounds are present on the walls as well as on canvas, but the philosophy changes when a work in done in a studio, with no time pressure and on the street, as a quick, illegal act.  The street is where he finds energy, life, motivation and inspiration. But the galleries are the windows that will, maybe one day, permit him to be shown in the biennale of Sao Paulo or in the permanent collection of a museum.

Outside, in his street, his works are all over the walls and walking around Sao Paulo, many characters are easily recognizable.

by Stephanie Serra

Onesto’s website

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