Brazilian graffiti duo Os Gemeos have gained notoriety for their unique works, which have come to define the Brazilian street art scene. Os Gemeos, translating from Portuguese to mean ‘The Twins,’ comprises identical twin brothers Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo. Their surreal and sometimes psychedelic work is built around the unique connection the twins share, which gives their work, despite having two separate pairs of hands working on it, a great sense of wholeness and unity; as if a brand new creative world has been brought into existence.
They began spray painting in Sao Paulo in 1987, creating a diverse range of artworks, from small graffiti tags to large-scale murals, at a young age. As they grew up in the traditional district of Cambuci, the twins developed their own form of play and symbolic communication through art. The streets became the place they expressed themselves and experimented with ideas. But it was when they merged this method of communication with the influences of hip-hop and Brazilian culture in the 1980s that their artform started to take its unique and captivating shape. Their work is so embedded in Brazilian culture that Os Gemeos have been nicknamed ‘Brazilian magical realists’ by those in the international street art scene.
Their personal artistic form of communication eventually extended beyond just street art. Talented in drawing, painting, and sculpture, their artwork has since taken them into the world of gallery art and international installations, with exhibits across the globe, from Cuba and Chile to Germany and Lithuania.
A SHARED DREAM
The work of the two brothers is built on a shared dream of pulling their viewer away from the bleak elements of reality. Moving away from direct, explicit social commentary, Os Gemeos ask the viewer to succumb to their imagination and simply experience the art rather than analyse it. In doing so, the finer details of life outside art can be more fully appreciated. Their inspiration comes from both their inner-reflections and the fantasy of the social world around them, processing everything through the bright colours and elaborate patterns of their vivid imaginations until it feels almost entirely removed.
The main colour that features in Os Gemeos’ work is yellow. Most of their colour schemes start here. Originally, painting on the streets of Sao Paulo, they chose yellow because it was an easy colour to see from far away, so would catch the viewer’s attention. Now, it is a colour they see a lot in their dreams, which they claim to share. The yellow figures that appear in their works, called ‘Tritez,’ are almost always yellow-skinned. The colour is deliberately unrelated to race, rendering the figures completely universal and removed from racial commentary. Their elongated limbs, large heads, and simplistic facial features, encased in a thin black outline, are instantly recognisable.
Many of the scenes Os Gemeos paint are inspired by their shared dreams. The importance of the dreamworld is reiterated in their choice of location for their murals. They incorporate doors and mirrors into their works to signify entry into another realm of fantasy and self-discovery. They quite literally invite their viewers into the surreal Os Gemeos world, and encourage an alternative perspective and a new form of perception.
BUILDING THE OS GEMEOS WORLD
Os Gemeos began their artistic journey with a catalogue of family portraits, Brazilian folklore, and flashes of commentary on their city’s social and political circumstances. These works were smattered around their hometown.
In 1993, Os Gemeos met internationally renowned street artist Barry McGee, a.k.a. Twist, and immediately collaborated on a range of art pieces across Sao Paulo. This expanded their influence into the United States and Europe, and led them to experiment with other creative processes, including painting, sculpture, animation, and installation. Throughout the 1990s, Os Gemeos took part in a series of group exhibits in Germany. McGee encouraged them to broaden their artistic scope, incorporating site-specific installations and gallery works into their remit. Since then, they have created murals with the likes of JR and Banksy.
After an interview with 12ozProphet Magazine, their international fame rose exponentially, before their first US show at The Luggage Store in San Francisco in 2003. Two years later, Os Gemeos took part in the Dreamland Artist Club Project, and put together a monumental 130ft mural on Coney Island, which marked their place as serious names in the street art business.
In 2006, alongside five other street artists, Os Gemeos were part of a six-month exhibition at the Tate Modern London. Six stunning murals decorated the sides of the building, marking what was the first major public museum display of street art to happen in the country.
One of their most notable exhibitions was the 2012 Miss You show at Prism in Los Angeles. The exhibition included paintings and murals, as well as sculptures and light installations, creating a fully immersive experience that truly captured the Os Gemeos dream. One interactive digital piece enabled the viewer to become one of their signature Tritez as they stepped inside the work.
2020 saw three exhibitions of their latest work take place in New York, Seoul, and their home city of Sao Paulo. You Are My Guest at the Hyundai Card Storage in Seoul exemplified how important their Brazilian heritage is to the duo. They returned once more to the colours, patterns, and traditions of Sao Paulo with mystifying three-dimensional installations that bend the reality of the space in which they sit.