By Nathan M. Walters, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Street artists and muralists looking for inspiration may find it hard to choose between NYC, the birthplace of graffiti, and Rio, one of the most exciting emerging scenes. For Raoul and Davide Perre, known globally as “How and Nosm,” world-renowned New York-based twin brother muralists, it is a difficult balance. The two are based in NYC but still find Rio one of the most exciting places to do street work.
“Rio is the best place for murals. There is a good vibe in the city, great weather year-round, and the authorities are more open if you do quality work,” states Raoul (How). These factors have drawn the pair to Rio many times since first visiting the Cidade Maravilhosa in 2004.
The result, over 200 walls in Rio have been transformed into pulsing canvases, including many of How and Nosm’s signature black, white, and red compositions. Their time spent in Brazil has been recorded in the book How & Nosm: The Brazil Diaries.
It’s difficult to miss a How and Nosm piece; their work, in Rio and around the world, is hyper-frenetic yet precise as an eye surgery. It was in Rio that their signature style flourished, a product of economic necessity more than aesthetic aspirations.
“Black and white spray cans are cheaper,” laughs How, “The cost to do the size of murals we like to do in color was just too much. Plus, you need less cans to work, was easier to carry on public transportation in Rio” In fact, a lot of How and Nosm style is the direct result of efficiency (which makes sense considering their German upbringing).
The sharp linear forms in their stylized work evolved from their years doing “throw-ups” (graffiti tags done with one continuous spray). This technique was applied to their mural work, allowing them to do more faster, but also creating an enigmatic interconnectedness in their compositions.
How recalls, “We wanted to be kings of the city, we wanted to see our pieces everywhere. In 2011 we did eighty murals in thirty days.” The numbers are impressive, considering the quality of the paintings, and, according to How, have moved the bar higher for quality work in Rio.
“When we first came in 2004 graffiti in Rio was still taking shape. For us it was great, plenty of walls in the city, not just in Zona Sul [South Zone] but everywhere. When we came back in 2005 the game had changed, there were many more talented writers in Rio. Rio challenges you, writers challenge each other,” states How.
The duo still see the city, the whole city, as a canvas, and encourage local artists to move further afield to spread their work. “When we used to go to Complexo do Alemão the people were always very welcoming. Of course they probably thought we were crazy, two gringos covered in tattoos painting in the favela, but we didn’t even think about it, we just wanted to paint, to share our art.”
“The community aspect of street art is important to us, whether we are working in the South Bronx or in Alemão. Of course we do work to make money, we grew up poor and used our art as a way to a better life. But we also put the money we make from private collectors and gallery work back into the street,” states How.
Rio and New York may continue to compete for the hearts and hands of international street artists, though if all are as prolific as How and Nosm neither city needs to worry about a lack of inspiring murals.