Pixaçao: Painting the Sky

Extraordinary Fashion

How high is too high?

Since the 1980s, a horde of young people from the favelas of Sao Paulo, Brazil, have been appropriating a subversive art and turning it into their own language. With black spray paint on monumental city walls, they have immortalized their own codes, claims and reflections about the society in which they live, a society which excludes and marginalizes them.

What these young boys and girls do is not graffiti. It is pixaçao, or pichaçao. This street art is a form of protest that sees mainstream art as dictatorship. These pichadores not want to leave any wall clean of their work; even the tallest buildings and most remote surfaces must be painted with symbols that are the seeds of an aesthetic revolution. The letters that make up these scratches come from the Scandinavian runic alphabet, first adopted in Brazil by old school metal bands like Manowar and Slayer for dark gothic album cover art.

It doesn't matter which words are written in pixaçao; these are often just signatures or crew names. More important are the position and especially the height of the pixaçao tag. The higher and less accessible the place where you find a gothic-tropical arabesque, the more value and meaning it has.

This art, an art of breaking and altering the aesthetics of the urban landscape of São Paulo, has been declared by many as simple vandalism. But to those who do it, pixaçao is a practice that demands attention and visibility for the city's humblest citizens, a means of speech for those who live on the B-side of the Brazilian art and society.


Images via: Choque