EDUARDO KOBRA Art, taken to the street

The striking juxtaposition of vivid color and iconic imagery makes it difficult to miss or forget the work of Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra. 

Featured on walls, underpasses and the sides of buildings, Eduardo Kobra’s creations contrast black-and-white stencils with vibrant color schemes and intricate patterns to create a distinctive artistic signature within modern cityscapes. 

Born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1976, Kobra started ‘pichação’ – or graffiti tagging – at a young age. Life in São Paulo, plus the hip-hop culture, were important influences on his development as a street artist, he said, making the connection between his work and the city a constant and vital feature of his creations. 

In my case, using the city as support happens naturally because I’ve learned it this way in the outskirts of São Paulo,” he said. “I feel privileged to be able to take my work to people who have never entered a museum or art gallery. It is a rewarding exchange, knowing that a large number of people see my work on a daily basis.”

When undertaking a new project, Kobra studies the history of the location and draws inspiration from old pictures, historical facts and classic scenes. Kobra also uses a collection of more than 500 books from a variety of countries and eras to influence his work.

A notable example is his interpretation of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous “V-J Day in Times Square” photograph. The original work, one of Kobra’s favorite pieces, portrays an American sailor kissing a woman in a white dress on “Victory over Japan Day” in 1945. The mural, located on the side of an apartment block not far from Times Square in New York City, features a series of bright colors emanating from the emblematic couple – a distinct contrast with the urban landscape that surrounds it. 



Many of Kobra’s other celebrated works feature representations of notable figures from history, including Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, and modern celebrities like American rapper, songwriter and actor Tupac Shakur.

“The most important aspect of my work is the history and the memory,” Kobra said. “Although there is an important aesthetic issue, the main objective of these murals is the contrast between the past and the present, and sometimes they’re related to the importance of preserving the historical and cultural heritage. This is something that is not being taken very seriously in countries like Brazil.” 

In recent years, Kobra has been commissioned by organizations that include the PRHBTN of Lexington, Kentucky, and No Limit Street Art Borås in Sweden to create new pieces for organized celebrations of street art. Kobra also was one of 12 artists hired by McDonald’s to create a special design for its french fry packaging during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which took place in his native Brazil.

Kobra may be inspired by the past, but he’s no stranger to using modern tools, particularly social media, to showcase his work. His Instagram page boasts more than 74,000 followers and he has more than 97,000 likes on his Facebook page.

Of social media and technology, Kobra said: “I do not need it for survival of my art, but I think not taking advantage
of available technology is a waste. Technology can and should be used favorably.”

During 2015, Kobra plans to work in seven different countries, including a return to New York City to create eight new pieces. ◆ 

by Sean Dudley Back to top
by Sean Dudley

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