“Yellow is a Completely Positive Color”
An Interview with the Brazilian Street Artists Os Gêmeos
fish, furnished heads: since 1987, Os Gêmeos have been creating a
brightly-colored, fantastic universe. Now, supported by Deutsche Bank,
the ICA in Boston presents the first solo museum exhibition of the
Brazilian twins in the US. The bank has previously supported their 2009
exhibition project "Vertigem" at the Museu de Arte Brasileira, São
Paulo. In an interview, Os Gêmeos talk about their current show and
explain what graffiti and hip hop culture mean to them.
||Achim Drucks: With your exhibition “Vertigem,” you’ve transformed the Museu de Arte Brasileira in São Paulo into a psychedelic-surreal wonderland. What can visitors to the ICA expect?
Relatively speaking, the exhibition for the ICA is more on the reduced
side. To be precise, it’s completely different than the project for the
MAB in Brazil or any of our other previous exhibitions. The curator Pedro Alonzo
asked us to do something that concentrated more on canvases, which he
wanted to be seen as “windows.” He wanted visitors to be able to relate
to each work individually. That was a completely new experience for us!
White walls! And then canvases on the wall, besides!
In Boston you’re also, however, going to make a huge mural in public space.
this is also one of the things we really like to do, and the cities let
us. After all, the city is there to be used in a playful, pleasant, and
positive way! Each time we work in public space, we get completely
involved in the place, the people there, the culture, and the city!
Do you have a precise idea of the murals when you begin work, or does the image develop throughout the working process?
draw a lot, all the time, actually. When we’re about to start a new
work, it continues to transform, but always in a positive direction.
And of course we improvise along the way, but you need a lot of
experience and precision for detail.
You’ve been working together from the very beginning.
right, we’ve always worked together! Even in our mother’s womb! We’ve
always shared everything. We can’t really explain it, it’s just a given
for us. We wouldn’t feel well any other way. We do all the work
together—one world one voice!
Are there differences between the works you do for galleries and museums and the works in the streets?
and it’s different each time, we never do anything twice. We always try
out something new and look for new possibilities of expression. On the
streets, we get into the area, the surface we’re painting on, the city
… In a museum or a gallery, it’s different. That’s where we create a
universe the viewer can dive into and really become absorbed in with
all five senses—there’s sound, light, paintings, videos, performances,
pictures, and installations.
The yellow-skinned figures have become something like a trademark for you. How did this motif come about?
It’s something we identify with. Yellow is a completely positive color!
Banksy and Shepard Fairey
have brought a new kind of success to street art, not only in terms of
commercial value, but also its presence in museums. What do you think
about this trend?
We believe that every movement brings change along in its train. Barry McGee,
Banksy, and other artists that come from street art have kicked a lot
of doors open with their work—they’ve created a lot of new
possibilities. The art universe is in a state of upheaval. We feel
that, and we perceive these changes. It seems that galleries and
museums worldwide also recognize the power of these artists. And of
course some galleries figured it out years ago! Today, many
conceptually oriented galleries refer to artists from the graffiti
scene, but so do museum shows. And that’s something the kids of a new
generation see and want to consume, of course—things they can identify
In the beginning, you worked far away from New York,
the urban art center of the time. How did that influence the style of
Most of what we learned was in Brazil, in
Sao Paulo, by improvising and absorbing everything. That’s how we
developed our style—and a large part of the motifs that recur in our
works. When we started traveling in 1999, we consciously looked for new
influences and went after sharing our experience with like-minded
You already began to paint as teenagers in São
Paulo in the late 1980s. What was so exciting to you at the time about
graffiti and hip hop culture?
It was definitely the freedom
and power of graffiti. No one tells you how, where, or why you should
do something. Basically, it’s a very direct form of communication.