In Living Color
Walking around the streets of Chelsea, you can't help but notice the seemingly intentional marriage of both art and fashion. Just perusing inside one of the many art galleries that zig-zag around the neighborhood, one can always find that person who is both artistically and fashionably-inclined. Stylish women with their towering heels and sculpted coats standing outside the Comme des Garçons store on 22nd Street seem to blend in perfectly with the graffiti that covers the store's black lacquered brick walls. All these graffiti seem to demand the same attention, if not more, than the ones framed and hung up inside the same galleries that house them.
It was then interesting to see a different sort of graffiti, one that was also born from the streets, to have its own reserved space, right in the middle of the famed Gallery Row. This graffiti, however, is not as static, in fact, it's three-dimensional, and it comes alive and fully-formed in its own colorful, whimsical, yet dream-like reality.
OSGEMEOS, which is Portuguese for "the twins", is a collaborative art duo comprised of identical twin brothers Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo, who broke into the art scene in the late 1980s as graffiti writers in their São Paulo neighborhood of Cambuci.
While the duo are internationally recognized by their murals, the gallery space offered the artists a different medium to work with. Each room had a clear identity and each tackled an important recurring theme for the artists: One room was dizzyingly filled with bold patterns and colors, a signature for the artists, that depicted the vibrant life and culture that the pair grew up in. Shooting next to such an exuberant backdrop called for a pared-down, almost minimalistic, quilted bomber jacket, and a pair of cotton canvas cargo pants that was just olive enough not to interfere with the harmonious cacophony of the exhibit.
Another room, called the "B-Boy" room, pays tribute to music in particular. For the duo, the time between 1970s and the 1980s (also known as the "Golden Age of Hip-Hop") was particularly influential for the artists. The room itself was filled with so-called "Boom Box Paintings", named because of the embedded speakers beneath either wood or found doors that play tracks linked to the imagery portrayed on the wood. Another sculpture, O Beijo, the Kiss, which is placed in a room by itself, is actually a working machine that plays several instruments simultaneously.
In a way, the diamond-quilted bomber jacket is in tune with the sculpture itself, not just in color, but in construction as well. While the sculpture housed several instruments in its core, the jacket, on the other hand, is padded with Thermore, an Italian brand known for polyester-based padding meant to reduce (or completely eliminate) the use of duck feathers or goose down, all while maintaining the same, if not more superior, insulation and warmth as its animal-based counterparts.
According to the gallery, OSGEMEOS' symbolism extends to their characters as well. The characters' indiscriminate yellow tone, which has become somewhat of a trademark for the artists, is meant to defy racial associations, an artistic decision brought on in an effort to "emphasize unity," similar to their diverse upbringing in their native Brazil. At a time when racial divide is at an all-time high, here and abroad, this kind of exhibit (and thinking) might just be exactly what we need.