Carlos Matuck is a Brazilian artist who lives and works in Sao Paulo. His artistic career started in the 70′s, while he was studying architecture. The publishing industry at that time was strong in both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, so Carlos became an illustrator for books and book covers.
Carlos abandoned his University studies in order to begin his new career. He started doing graffiti in 1978, following the example of his friend Alex Valauri, a painter who had taken graffiti influences from London. Alex and Carlos both had a passion for stamps, which led them to do stencil works together. They also collaborated with Zaidler, one of Matuck’s friends from University. Through Valauri, Carlos was exposed to marketing and advertising people, who in the 80s started to commission him to paint murals in shops, discos, and other properties. In 1983 a gallery asked Carlos to show some of his work. However, Carlos only agreed to paint on the walls and not on canvases or wood. Although Carlos started working on commissioned projects, he continued to do graffiti on the streets until 1985.
Matuck’s main influences are comics and graphics (advertising, book covers, magazines etc), and he is inspired by people like Saul Steinberg and Jacovitti. His graffiti is ironic and less aggressive than most other styles. He considers himself “a sort of Pop artist”.
Our initial meeting is at 10 AM at Carlos Matuck’s house in downtown Sao Paulo. It is the group’s first morning in Brazil, and we are running a little late. Carlos is waiting for us in front of the door with his daughter, but doesn’t seem irritated about the time. It is Sunday morning; everyone is relaxed.
We do not all fit in Carlos’ car so four students go with Carlos and the rest follow in taxis. We are going to Embu, a little town near Sao Paulo where Carlos has his studio.
The studio is wonderful; Embu is a little piece of paradise just outside the chaos of the metropolis. The small villa was built by Carlos and is still in the process of completion. In the future Carlos would like to move here because the city is too stressful. After a small tour of the space, we sit around a large table and the discussion begins.
Basic questions about graffiti are raised. Carlos states that graffiti art is controversial because the artist does not ask for permission to use the wall, but takes possession of it. Those who ask for permission from the government or owner of the building to paint on a wall are no longer doing graffiti, but painting a mural. Usually, making murals is not something one does spontaneously, it involves choosing and studying a place, making preliminary sketches of the work and finally, creating the mural.
Stencil art is one of the artist’s favorite forms of art. Carlos keeps and categorizes most of his stencil templates in a special room on the upper floor of his studio. He showed us many of his carefully preserved templates, and then explained the process and evolution of stencil art. A template is created by removing sections of the material, usually cardboard, corresponding to a particular shape. The impression of the particular shape can then be reproduced using the template. In the past, the template was made by hand, drawing the shape on the material, and then cutting out the unwanted areas with the help of a knife. Today this process is made much easier by lasers that perform the cutting.
The environment in the 70’s and 80’s
Carlos started doing graffiti in the 70’s, but was not influenced by the New York scene. His main influences came from Alex Valauri, a friend who spent some years in London and returned with some ideas about graffiti. At the time, there were very few other graffiti artists in Brazil. An early example is a group of poets in Sao Paulo doing visual poetry on the walls of the city because they couldn’t publish their work through traditional methods.
Carlos and his fellow artist friends learned how to make art by doing, not attending an art school. Today, Matuck says, there is a greater tendency for artists to enroll in universities and academies.
As middle class graffiti artists during the dictatorship, Matuck, Alex and Zaidler worked collectively in order to arrive, paint and quickly escape from the police in their getaway car. It was a dangerous time during which, getting caught had dire consequences, but Matuck and his friends did it anyway because taking public spaces was one of the few means of expression they had.
They often went to Villa Madalena, a middle class area near the University, that in the 80’s was a popular student and artist neighbourhood. As a place full of young people and artists, Villa Madalena was a center filled with anti-dictatorship sentiment. In the next years Villa Madalena continued to grow in popularity and today is full of bars, design shops and galleries.
The environment today
Matuck explained that today Sao Paulo has a strong economy, and since the market is in Sao Paulo, the art is also in Sao Paulo. Events like the Biennial, and the majority of art galleries, are in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but still mostly in Sao Paulo.
In terms of the situation of graffiti in Sao Paulo today, the topic of violent tags on many buildings of the city came up. Carlos said that these kinds of tags are called pixaçāo and they are particular to Brasil. The people that do them are called pixadores, and they are usually guys living in the favelas, located in the suburbs of Sao Paulo. There is currently an invasion of pixadores on the city of Sao Paulo. In the past they just tagged the walls of private houses and tall buildings where the wealthiest people lived, but today, pixaçāo is considered a real form of protest and vandalism. Some pixadores have also started attacking Universities, galleries and even the last Sao Paulo Biennial (28th edition).
In the past ten years, in the favelas, the number of graffiti and graffiti writers has really increased. A sort of fight is taking place between graffiti artists like Matuck (coming from the middle class) and the pixadores. An example of this clash is a recent attack of the pixadores on the street art gallery Choque Cultural. In Sao Paolo there is a social apartheid and the pixacao movement is evidence of that. The suburbs of Sao Paulo have been poor for many years, but only recently have suburban residents started growing in force and protesting through graffiti.
2010 by Valia Xanthopoulou Tsitsoni and Kiki Sideris
O texto foi escrito por ocasião da visita ao ateliê de um grupo de estudantes italianos do curso Masters of Science in Arts, Culture, Media and Entertainment (ACME), University Bocconi, em Milão, acompanhado pelo diretor do curso Prof. Stefano Baia Curioni