OSGEMEOS on What It Takes to Be a Legendary Graffiti Artist, or TwoThe Brazilian artist duo pays respect to KAWS, Banksy, Barry McGee, and hip-hop as a whole.
The Brazilian artist duo behind OSGEMEOS is a linchpin in the world of graffiti. Comprised of identical twins, Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, these creative brothers have pushed the boundaries of the art form ever since they started tagging on the streets of São Paulo in the 1980’s. Their global success is strongly rooted in a unique visual style that predominantly features yellow human-like characters. These vivid, spray-painted subjects reflect their eclectic inspirations, spanning family, hip-hop, mysticism and dreams, to name a few. Not only do they specialize in visual art, but OSGEMEOS have also produced mixed media installations, collaborations with celebrities such as Pharrell, and even created a humongous mural on a Boeing 737’s fuselage for the Brazilian World Cup in 2014.
The artists recently launched a new exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in Hong Kong. Titled “Déjà Vu,” the extensive showcase marks their first solo show in Asia and puts on a grand display of never-before-seen paintings and a sound installation. To celebrate the event, we sat down with the artists to discuss the new show, what it takes to be a legendary graffiti artist and their undying passion for hip-hop culture.
Check out the full interview below and visit Lehmann Maupin’s official website to learn more about the exhibition. “Déjà Vu” is on view up until May 12.
“Street art” is a new name that refers to murals and small interventions in the city, but for us, what we do is graffiti.
What are your thoughts on the state of graffiti today?
Graffiti is for those who like it and have dedicated their lives to it. We fight for that and we put a lot of energy into it. Graffiti is a style, an action, an innovation and takes dedication. It is silence, fame, quantity, quality, improvisation, hand style, respect, history, partners, crews and bombing. A true writer knows who the other true writers are in the game. It is not for everyone. If you really want to play this “game” you have to know what it is.
Do you differentiate street art from graffiti? In your perspective, what are the similarities and differences?
We grew up in the graffiti world. Graffiti writers! We have been doing letters (names) and b-boy characters for many years until we found our style. From that, we started to do letters separate from the characters and sometimes we only did the characters or only our name. That is what we call graffiti because we came from the graffiti and hip-hop world. “Street art” is a new name that refers to murals and small interventions in the city, but for us, what we do is graffiti. Today you see people print stuff in their homes, glue that on the street and call it street art. It is different from people like REVS, COST in NYC, Twister in San Francisco, and KAWS in New York, who started doing work in the early ’90s, way before people started to talk about “street art.”
They are true legends where style is one of the most important things. You can do many things in the streets, but if you don’t have your own style you won’t be seen by the others as original style writers. We love to see the tags with markers and spray paint on doors. You can see the “hand style” writers. We see people glue paper over tags with no respect. If you don’t respect the graffiti scene, you are not part of it.
It was a magical time in the ’80s, when everything was changing with improvisation, innovations and new techniques. This is how we shared what we believed in—our own way.
It’s interesting that this is your first show in Hong Kong, and you have called it “Déjà Vu.” What is the meaning of the name?
We already did a group exhibition in Hong Kong a long time ago in 2005, with Satoria, Giorgio Dimitri. We believe that it is great to come back and do something new on our own, something fresh. Deja vu is in your head, it’s the magic of perception. Everyone has this and this can happen anytime.
With your backgrounds in hip-hop and breakdancing, how have those influenced your artwork?
We grew up in a hip-hop neighborhood around b-boys, graffiti writers and DJs. It was a magical time in the ’80s when everything was changing with improvisation, innovations and new techniques. This is how we shared what we believed in—our own way different from others. Hip-hop saved us and gave a different perspective by opening a new door and giving us new tools to express ourselves. We are still involved with hip-hop but in different ways. We have always been open to new cultures—even in the early ’80s, we grew up listening to opera with our grandfather and rock music with our older brother, Arnaldo—and we put all of these influences into our work. You can see many different cultures there, and we will always be open to new influences. But we love hip-hop and this is a complete very unique and important culture.
Since hip-hop has been such a major influence in your works, and you guys are known to DJ, have you ever thought of releasing your own music album?
No. We didn’t plan for that. Music was part of our lives since we were born. In the ’90s, we got into the turntables. For a while, we were not focused on the turntables, but we brought this back some years ago and we really enjoy it. We play in clubs and also produce music. The only project that has come out is called “1983” and it launched last year. It was a collaborative project with Pharrell Williams and JR where we worked together to create a very special boom box, two vinyl records and a number of photographs. Maybe in the future, we will plan something new.
Sometimes you see projects or exhibitions by people that do not respect the artists and steal pieces from the streets and put a show together without the artist’s permission.
What influence did Barry McGee (Twist) have on the two of you? How did you all meet?
Barry has been really important for us. He was the guy that showed us that you can live doing art and what you love. He also showed us what is possible to do with fewer colors and with style. He was the guy that first showed us movies like Style Wars and Videograff, fat caps, graffiti magazines, and stickers. For us the most important thing that we learned from him was simplicity. He has one of the best hand styles ever and has influenced a lot of people all over the world. Since 1993, we became family and still have fun and learn from each other every time we come together. Love you, Barry!
What was it like to collaborate with Pharrell on the BOOMBOX project?
It was a friendship project, something that came out very naturally and fun. It was 3 artists with no fear to experiment on something new. It is a boombox with two records, one made by Pharrell and the other produced by us and DJ Roger Dee, with the visuals by us and JR. There are incredible photos taken from JR in the backstage and in the studio. It was a very magical project!
How did your public Banksy collaboration happen? Since they were on display outside in public, did anyone try to steal or vandalize them?
This came out very naturally as well. We did the paintings a long time ago, way before the show in NYC. We knew each other from years back. We met in Hamburg, Germany when we were both invited to participate in a project called “Urban Discipline” organized by Daim, and that’s where we got the idea.
No one stole or vandalized the works. People that do graffiti know that Banksy came from the graffiti game in England before he got famous with the stencils, but today it is more difficult. Sometimes you see projects or exhibitions by people that do not respect the artists and steal pieces from the streets and put a show together without the artist’s permission. This is something we do not respect.
Would you be upset if someone vandalized them?
When you do the right thing, you respect everyone! You know what to do.