Pixação and running from cops. The Sao Paolo style of Autops
One of our favourite things about World Series is the broader world of creative influences it introduces us to. Learning more about creatives all over the world is the very reason that we do it. The latest artist in our World Series hailsfrom Sao Paolo. Theodoro Autops brings together a whole multitude of references - from stuff that might be more familiar to European audiences like Robert Crumb to stuff we’re only just getting to know like the specific Brazilian style of graffiti known as pixação. We got to know Theodoro a little better with an interview to go alongside his World Series t-shirt which launches this Wednesday.
Photo, Theodoro Autops
Hi my name is Theodoro Autops, I am a 29 years old Brazilian artist who lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
I have been travelling thru Europe in 2019 including a really fast passing thru Sweden, in Malmo. I intend to go travelling around Europe again as soon as the covid situation gets better worldwide.
You reached out to us after our first collaboration with Kyle Platts. What attracted you to want to be apart of the world series project?
Oh my God, I love Kyle’s work so much, I have a great true admiration for artists who have their own style without really caring for the trends of the moment. The invitation for being the next artist to develop a Skewed World Series was a real honor and pleasure for me. I already have been drawing t-shirts for some years now, so getting a cool brand like yours inviting me was kind of a confirmation that I was going in the right direction with my own projects. The print machine you guys have is just amazing, I just can’t wait to be in Sweden to get to see with my own eyes it working, printing something.
Can you talk us through your World Series interpretation?
My interpretation of this project is quite simple: You guys are giving the opportunity to upcoming talented artists from different places on Earth to develop some fresh drawings for you. What gives this project this uniqueness, both in concept as in visual, is the result of mixed style collections of different things, so each collection of this series will be totally different one from the another. So you guys are literally creating your own world, and this world is being drawn and interpreted by different artists, and that is quite unique.
«My idea was to have an artwork profession without me exploring graffiti, because it was too sacred for me to sell it, you know?.»
Can you talk us through your process for creating your World Series artwork?
To create my artwork for the World Series I thought about this notion I’ve just told you, about how would be my own version of the SKEWED world. I’ve been doing graffiti for 10 years, so my first idea was to include a central and main spraycan character walking by. Then I thought about putting some of my “human” characters dancing and having fun in the outside, along with a mushroom character sleeping, really cool. Then I created kinda bubble creatures who are coming and going in a line, as if coming back from a work day, and they are little mystical creatures because each one has an astrological symbol in their hats. I thought about creating an alphabet for this skewed world, so those symbols in their hats forms secretly the word SKEWED, haha.
Then I thoughy maybe this is so too crazy, so I didn’t go on with it, but is fun to remember that now. I knew, from the beginning of course, that I was going to create a SKEWED real simple lettering, with a mixture of both graffiti and comics influence, because this is the kind of thing I often do.
In the scenery I’ve put some clouds in the sky and a city skyline of buildings in the back just to show that that event is happening outside the city, a little far from all the madness of the urban city, intending to say with all this that we should explore the outside world whenever tha’s possible.
For you, what came first, pen and paper illustrations or graffiti?
My history is a little backwards compared to the usual path. I am obsessed with drawing since always, like since I was a little boy in school and was having trouble already for not paying attention to the teachers due to my drawing activities. I started to go out to do pixacao (a Sao Paulo city traditional tag) since I was 14 years old, and that was developed and became bigger and bigger in my life, till graffiti got to be the main thing of my lifestyle for the last 8 years or so. Painting illegally really is and will always be the best therapy in the world for me. In the SKEWED world also, I think. It’s all about freedom, I am quite obsessed with it.
My idea was to have an artwork profession without me exploring graffiti, because it was too sacred for me to sell it, you know? So it was only in 2018 that I had this conception of my work as it is. Black and white images, cartoony with lots of references of 30’s, 50’s and R. Crumb, of course, and all that Underground Cartoon Universe.
«Everybody and i mean EVERYBODY needs some attention. Pixação is just a specific way to say to the society: “I was here, I exist”»
I read that Pixação began as a form of protest against the government of the time and inequalities faced by many Brazilians. Is this still the case today? Has the style been adopted by other parts of Brazil or does it remain solely in Sao Paulo?
Well, there is some controversy in that. The pixação was used as a form of protest against the dictatorships we have lived through in Brazil. But the traditional movement of the pixação, as we know it, is a little more recent, like in the end of the 80’s i think. There is a nice brazilian documentary called “PIXO” (shortcut name for pixação). This documentary is super didactic and explanatory about the history and the main characteristics of it.
Pixação can be interpreted as a protest movement, but from what I’ve seen in the last few years, it’s much more about existentialism and exactly like when hip-hop was just beginning, is a crazy way of people admiring and being admired by others in a healthy way (sometimes not so healthy like people falling from 6th floor window or beefs that ended with murder) but still, just like hip-hop has saved many and many lives from the crime life, pixação is also often a gateway from that world. So is kind of contradictory to say this, but even being really dangerous to do it, in a more social way of seeing, in my point of view, pixação saves lives cause is all about self esteem.
Everybody and i mean EVERYBODY needs some attention. Pixação is just a specific way to say to the society: “I was here, I exist”
Just like hip-hop it is a movement based on what you can do, and not about what you have. That always have attracted me very much, real meritocracy based on your skills and your creativity. Long live all the pixadores from São Paulo, from Brazil and right now from the whole world, cause this movement, just like hip-hop is now globally worldwide. I would not be who I am today, if I didn’t pass some time in this street atmosphere of Sao Paulo City. Pixação should be viewed as our more valued patrimony of the city cause is really unique, and original. Our postcards for tourists should be photos of our buildings in the center region, covered with pixação, cause this is what we have of more unique and different from any other metropolis on Planet Earth.
What is the public opinion of graffiti and Pixação in Sao Paulo? What punishment do you face if caught?
Oh, haha general people hate pixação. We had an evil mayor who got elected demonizing pixação and telling all the problems of the city like crimes, poverty, leck of education and health system was secondary, but the main problem was pixação. And people elected him, so this shows how much people from this movement is persecuted and sometimes even executed or injured by police or people who thinks is ok to be above the law.
If I am doing a throw up in a big avenue of our city (always depends on what wall or surface you are doing of course) if I do like I almost always do, black filling, people will be screaming bad things to me and calling cops or securitys. But if i use like turquoise or some other cool color, people be like screaming from the cars like, “Ohhh this is so beautiful! This is art, not that ugly pixação thing.” So this also tells a lot about general citizen knowledge about whats what on the graffiti/pixacao world.
The thing is, the same people who want to buy and will have money to buy some piece from a super famous artist, will be calling the cops or himself confronting that same artist, doing that same piece on his wall of his property, if doing it illegally without his permission. Super contradictory.
The punishments always depends on many things. Here in Brazil we depend on what each particular cop thinks about it, and on how they are feeling in that moment. If no citizens are around and you get busted from police, they be doing some biblical things… like painting over your whole face and body or making you eat the paint. Beating the hell of you is the more common thing over here. Like the same treatment they would give to a real criminal. I was busted one time for pixaçao, I was doing with a roller, the lateral part of a building, from the rooftop of a 2nd floor pizzeria house. After I finished I was caught in the street with all my tools in my backpack. They came as if I had committed a murder and they were a SWAT team, like 4 cars flashing lights and 8 cops to catch a teenager writing his name haha… really crazy. In that same night imagine how much real crime was happening in the same center region of the city, but they were worried and focusing on me.
The real law, changes all the time but it is really rare to really go to jail because of it. There is some others accusations like breaking in a building to go up from the inside and do the top of it, you face another kind of penalty. But mainly you have to do some communitary work and pay some fines. I think just like in any place of the world. I had payed some time doing it communitary work for this episode i told you when i was 19. I was sharing the labour with a woman who robbed a person pointing a firearm to his head. So kind of apples and oranges haha
Brazil has many many problems, and the judicial system is just one more reason we are a super big country with so little things that actual work. We have corruption in the smaller proportions of power, imagine what the judges and police bosses actually do in here. Well… anyways, I think that hostile and problematic environment we live in here for sure have some contribution to made our creations and cultural movements unique as they are.
Who are you illustrator heros and who are your graffiti heroes?
Haha well, I have just talked about R Crumb, he is really an inspiration for me. Here in Brazil we have some amazing artists of the cartoon world as well. My favorites are Millor Fernandes, Ziraldo, Glauco and Laerte. They had a big influence in my work. Also, one of my big references is Quino, the father of the famous MAFALDA, the argentine artist. His works are just my favorite thing in the whole world.
My friend and crew member Muretz is also a big reference for me, both our styles have some similarities and we draw together all the time so he also has a deep influence in my recent work.
In graffiti world, I just have to say that we brazilians are just different from the rest. OsGemeos are not only unique, they are also always 10, 15 years ahead of all the human kind. They are for sure my biggest influence and inspiration since I was a pre teenager learning what graffiti was about, in the first place. Here in Sao Paulo, we also have GUETO. A big friend, he has showed me this more subtle part of graffiti, like just painting out of love and not showing to everyone all the time like people are doing on Internet, you know? I just show some of it, but not all, including my biggest “treasures”, that are moments so precious to me that I keep only to myself and my closest friends. Like writers are bloggers now… I think this way of doing things is a little backwords. GUETO`s own way of “throw up” lettering is kind of my school, since he didn’t teach me directly how to do it, but I saw his pieces everywhere in Sao Paulo since I was a kid too, so that also was for sure a big influence in my development. After we became good friends over playing football together, he has passed me some of this graffiti essence and that has changed a lot my way of seeing this universe.
He was also along with me in some parts of this trip thru Europe I’ve told you about in the beginning of this interview. We met like four different times in different countries in the 3 months the trip lasted. It was really crazy during this period, I am truly eager to go back to Europe, because I collected many friends in this travel, besides some art people who, I think, will be important in the next steps of my path as an artist.
Anything or anyone you think we should know about coming out of São Paulo right now?
Well, I think I already spelled my favorite people from the city actually, haha. I would like to present my crew to you guys, we are called A DOG LIFE, and it’s me, Muretz, Ufo, Vergonha and Jafar.
We are Brazilian artists, each one in his own style and different moments of artwork career but we have in common this obsession with drawing. The five of us are illustrators who do graffiti, and graffiti writers who do illustrations.
«I just want to end this with a message of protest about our piece of shit president who is ruining Brazil's image even more than usual. We Brazilians are feeling trapped under this terrible and evil administration. Please don’t judge his acts as if our own.»
Hard question to answer at the moment, but what does the near future look like for Autops?
As I told you, my hope to be in Europe in the near future, and be presenting my work again thru the old continent as soon as covid let us travel around again. I just want to end this with a message of protest about our piece of shit president who is ruining Brazil image even more than usual. We Brazilians are feeling trapped under this terrible and evil administration. Please don’t judge his acts as if our own. We fell deeply ashamed and outraged to have this demon as our president.
Thank you guys so much for this opportunity, as I said before it’s truly an honor and a pleasure for me to be part of the SKEWED WORLD SERIES. Hope to see you guys real soon.