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Os Gêmeos (Portuguese for The Twins) are graffiti artist identical twin brothers (born 1974) from São Paulo, Brazil, whose real names are Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo. They started painting graffiti in 1987 and gradually became a main influence in the local scene, helping to define Brazil's own style. Their work often features yellow-skinned characters - taken from the yellow tinge both of the twins have in their dreams - but is otherwise diverse and ranges from tags to complicated murals. Subjects range from family portraits to commentary on São Paulo's social and political circumstances, as well as Brazilian folklore. Their graffiti style was influenced by both traditional hip hop style and the Brazilian culture.
From early influences to present
Hip hop culture reached Brazil in the late eighties and appealed to a lot of the country's teenagers at the time. The twins started out as breakdancers, and got involved with the graffiti aspect later on. Of course, their first steps into the graffiti world were attempts to emulate American hip hop pieces, in early New York style. It was not until some years later that they started to consciously put Brazilian cultural elements and influences into their graffiti.
Their first significant artistic influence outside their immediate environment, and their limited access to American hip hop (Style Wars, Subway Art, Beat Street), stemmed from a chance encounter with Barry McGee (also known as Twist), who happened to be in Brazil for several months on a study program through the San Francisco Art Institute in 1993. Technique and experience were shared, and McGee provided them with a lot of photographic examples from the American graffiti scene. Through Barry McGee, Os Gemeos met Allen Benedikt (founder of 12oz Prophet Magazine and also part Brazilian), who together with Caleb Neelon (also known as Sonik) became the first to interview them after a trip to Brazil in 1997 (12oz Prophet Magazine Issue 6; 1998), which became Os Gemeos' introduction to audiences outside of South America.
Their latest work is a wall in Miami, Florida painted for Art Basel Miami Beach. Before that was a painting of 16 at 10 meters in the centre of Heerlen, the Netherlands. This painting determines part of cultural festival Cultura Nova. It was the inspiration source of the large opening act where the head character came to life in association with the French group La Plasticiens Volant. The show “L’Etranger” went in premiere on 29 August and was one-off seen on Cultura Nova. The wall painting continues to be preserved and is shown on the Schelmerhofje in Heerlen, the Netherlands. Click here for a photograph.
Because Subway systems and trains are often an object of pride in Brazilian cities, and therefore especially well guarded, they were never on top of the list of graffiti canvases (in sharp contrast with graffiti in other countries). But as of the early 2000s a couple of high profile graffiti artists, Os Gêmeos being one of them, were invited to paint the trains legally. Other large scaled public commissioned work, such as huge murals (for example the Avenida Paulista mural) followed afterwards. The most current mural is in 21st between 8th and 9th avenues on NYC's Chelsea district which is about 50% complete as of 08/09/2010. The latest mural is 6 stories on height and is painted on an elementary school.
Their first solo exhibition in the United States was at The Luggage Store in San Francisco, California in 2003.
Comments on Os Gêmeos' work
"With rage, bliss and the power of their simultaneity, Os Gemeos have come to signify Brazilian graffiti itself to many viewers."
"Renowned for spray-painting with a kind of intuitive understanding, they have also gained recognition for their fantastic characters..."
- Tristan Manco, Caleb Neelon, Lost Art (October 2005). Graffiti Brasil. Thames & Hudson. p. 64. ISBN 0-500-28574-8.
- Manco, Neelon, p.16
- Manco, Neelon, p.59
- Manco, Neelon, p.17-18
- Manco, Neelon, p.44
- Manco, Neelon, p.46
- Manco, Neelon, p.64
- Nicholas Ganz, Tristan Manco (October 2004). Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents. Thames & Hudson. p. 85. ISBN 0-500-51170-5.
- Assum Preto, 2008, Libri Aparte, ISBN 978-88-95059-05-1
- Mirko Reisser, Gerrit Peters, Heiko Zahlmann: Urban Discipline 2002: Graffiti-Art, 2002, getting-up (Germany) ISBN 3-00-009421-0
- Official Os Gemeos Blog
- Os Gemeos homepage at Lost Art
- Interview at Art Crimes
- Luggage Store photo gallery
- Ekosystem photo gallery
- New York Times article
- Os Gemeos at Cultura Nova 2008
- Interview with Os Gemeos, Jeffrey Deitch and Martha Cooper at Deitch Projects, 2008 by ScribeMedia.Org