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Trompe L'oeil in the Slums: São Paulo's 'Floating' Graffiti

Graffiti artists have created words that seem to float several feet above the crooked roadways of a Brazilian favela.

Boa Mistura

Graffiti in urban areas is so common nowadays that it's sometimes weirder to see a blank wall than one tagged all to hell. In this scribbled-up environment, it takes a special kind of street art to grab one's attention.

Well, a gang of taggers from Spain's Boa Mistura collective have managed to conjure that kind of eye-hijacking art. The team, composed of the wonderfully named folks Arkoh, Derko, Pahg, Purone and Rdick, traveled to Brazil this year to transform a slum into a hallucinatory maze of optical illusions. Bending the laws of perspective to their will, they painted words that seem to float several feet above the snaking streets of Vila Brâsilandia, one of the hundreds of favelas in São Paulo.

They were helped in this "typographic intervention" by the slum's residents, who painstakingly detailed cinderblock walls, electric poles and drainpipes to create the hovering words. Because there's not a lot of it in favelas, the words expressed themes of hope, such as doçura ("sweetness") and firmeza ("tenacity"). The effect on the first-time viewer is like a sucker punch to the senses: The three-dimensional words seem sculptural enough that you could pluck them from the air with your hands.

Curious as to who these Boa Mistura people are? According to their website:

The work of Boa Mistura is all about the love of graffiti, colour and life. They have developed their work in different fields, applying both a diversity of styles and the different views of each member. Boa Mistura represents a mixture of perspectives which complement, influence and mix themselves together in order to create something better. From graffiti and mural painting, to graphic design and illustration, Boa Mistrua want to give the world its colour back. 5 heads, 10 hands, just one heart.

Aside from São Paulo, the self-dubbed "graffiti rockers" have also staged interventions in Cape Town and in this unnamed locale, where video evidence strongly suggests the artists have the best jobs on Planet Earth. Have a look at some of their favela work:

Photos courtesy of Boa Mistura.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.