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Zezão

Biography

Zezão (38 years old) is one of the leaders of Brazilian abstract graffiti. He grew up and works in Sao Paulo.

This intuitive artist first painted with pixadores (1985), in the same crew as Boleta, another Street artist. The goal was to climb up the highest building of Sao Paulo to write his name. During a very dark depression (1993), the artist started bombing (term commonly used to describe the action of graffiti) undergrounds, in the sewer system and subterranean water ducts. He went alone and did not want anyone to find him.

His art saved him, as he says, and he met some incredibly poor people during this time of his life. He decided to help them by “making their life a little more colourful” and using the media (interviews) to point out a reality of those forgotten places where no one ever goes. The purpose of the socio-political engagement of his work is to reveal the existence of this misery.

His specific calligraphy, with which he always signs his name, is an abstract representation of a water source. Driving around the city, one can also see many of his different colorful styles of graffiti, painted alone or with his friends.

When he paints, he has three very different styles:

THE BLUE STYLE is calm and peaceful. It’s the calligraphy he uses in the underground.  The blue sign is his signature and his name: VICIO and blue colour is used as a symbol of peace.

THE BLACK STYLE is monochrome, influenced by digital futurist shapes of the microchips.

THE COLOR MURALS is the style he uses when he paints “in crews”, with his friends. Together, they meet and paint on large walls some very colourful abstract works.

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Zezao became recognized for his work in 2002, when he started to live out of his art. Photographed for many graffiti books, he is one of today’s most interviewed Brazilian street artists. He was presented to the international scene through exhibitions conducted around the world such as Ruas de Sao Paulo: A survey of Brazilian Street Art at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York or thanks to the movie Bomb it (2006). In Brazil Zezao is represented by Choque Cultural Gallery. When he is abroad, he tries to meet up with the local street artists in order to learn new techniques and to paint together.

His studio in located outside of Sao Paulo, on the hills around the city.

Report

The meeting was planned at the bar of the hotel in Sao Paulo for Zezão didn’t want us to meet with him in any dangerous place. He came, presented himself in a casual way and asked us what we wanted to know about him. An open discussion started, accompanied by photos and images of works. Background: Italian music.

Early Years

He started by telling his story. When he was younger, he was a Pixacao, listening to hard rock and punk music and following their lifestyle (tattoos, illegal bombing, territory fight). His first influences came from New York magazines from which he would copy techniques of painting letters with latex spray.

Graffiti is like a through-up, it’s about bombing the city, it’s an attitude. You can’t just paint well, it is not enough, you have to want to transform the city.”

The “dark road” started in 1993 when his father passed away and his mother was sick. He fell into a deep depression: “I had a sick mind”.

He started to go underground, under the streets of Sao Paulo, in silence and darkness. He needed to reflect in that atmosphere, alone, all alone. The underground became his medicine. He started painting those blue, round, flexible, watery forms in the emptiness of the subterranean water ducts. The places he would go to were dangerous, with dead animals and a terrible smell.

New Beginnings

The day in which he felt cured, he decided that he was ready for the light again and so, he started painting outdoors, in the light, again.

He then described his experience of painting on the streets, with no sketches or notes: “The experience of the street is great; you only have 20 minutes max to finish you work. It is very different from the work that you create for galleries (needs 3 days to complete a canvas), in the street, you work fast, no mistake possible”.

He has a special relationship with Sao Paulo and his art is closely linked to the image of his city, its movements, density, paradox: “I love my city, I want to make this art for someone that will understand it. Sometimes I just go back to look at my works and take pictures.”

His attachment to helping homeless people is also very strong. When he goes to the streets where they live, he dresses up as they do and uses their language and vocabulary to communicate with them, otherwise they can become aggressive; “It’s a way of respecting them, to have a similar style.”

He creates a context for them to live in, a “house” on the wall with these blue forms: “Since they are forgotten, it is necessity to help them. They live in the worst places you could possibly imagine and no one goes to visit them.” He gave the example of a group of homeless people from the Amazonia forest that came to look for work in Sao Paulo without luck. Today, they live in the canals of the water ducts, forgotten by society. Thanks to an interview of Zezao about the family’s situation, they were taken care of and removed from that terrible place.

But Zezão, Why graffiti?

To be Illegal, Transgressive, and to obtain the “Surprise effect” of an art that suddenly appears.”

by Stephanie Serra

Photos

courtesy of http://www.lost.art.br and Zezão

Zezão’s website

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