Interviewed by Austin Villela and Shane Allen
Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo are two identical twins hailing from Sau Paulo, Brazil. Going by OSGEMEOS., the twins have been painting graffiti together since the 80's and are known for their monumental murals and signature characters. All of their work takes place in a different world, a world that they've created and cant escape, they call it Tritrez. A realm that closely resembles their dreams, surreal landscapes inhabited by its's folky, patterned clothed citizens.
OSGEMEOS is having a show called Portal at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in Chelsea New York City. We were interested in picking their brains about it and wanted to see what they were up to and how they are spending their time during quarantine..
How have the past few months been for you two?
(Otavio) Before the pandemic we started working at the museum, one of the biggest museums in Sao Paulo, called Pinacoteca do Estado. We have been working this show for over a year, this exhibition, it is one of the biggest and most important exhibitions we are going to do. We are taking over all of Pinacoteca, it’s our biggest show, it’s like 7 big rooms, the whole building. When the pandemic started we started working inside, building the exhibition. We had to stop in the middle of the build out of our set. We had to stop, because of the pandemic, and then we’ve spent all these months in our house.
Our house or in the studio because there’s nobody in the studio, just me and Gustavo. We came here (the studio), stay in the house, come here (the studio), stay in the house, more inside of the house. We’ve been taking care of ourselves. We also did a lot of social projects in Brazil, started a lot of social projects. Now we’ve started getting back to building the show, finishing the installation of the whole show. But we have no idea when it’s going to open. So, we’ve been very busy now reinstalling the show in Pinacoteca.
With the situation you guys have been in, a little bit on pause with some of your work, not knowing what’s around the corner. Was there anything this has taught you about the way you go about doing your work, or was it just kind of taking a step back?
(Gustavo) I think it was very new for all of us since it started. Like he said, we were in the middle of this museum install, and our mind was there. Because the show is still in the process of building and we don’t have an opening date. I think our head was there, and with our family and friends, taking care of them. And the people that work with us, the crew, the galleries that work with us, it was more like this. More in terms of this.
(Otavio) Because you see how dangerous it (coronavirus) is in Brazil. You’re Brazilian so you know. We worry a lot about our family, about our friends, and we feel we need to do something also. To help our friends, to help our family, to help the people that need help.
(Gustavo) Our head was like this during the pandemic, the creative side we were working on the show, making new paintings for the show, and also taking care of our family. And people that need help. It was more like that.
(Otavio) Then we got this idea of the masks. We came up with this idea to send them all over Brazil. Especially the hot zone parts, Indian tribes, people living by the rivers, places that are hard to get to. We started to spread this project all over Brazil. North, northeast, south, everywhere. And of course, in Sao Paulo.
(Gustavo) In collaboration with some institutions, like doing distribution in the impacted communities, and also for people who live on the street, you know. So yeah, it was more like that. Everything is still new. We don’t know much about it, the virus, it’s crazy.
(Otavio) We’re still in the middle of this whole situation. It’s like in New York, the same. We’re neighbors. We’ll see what happens, nobody knows.
What does a portal mean. to you?
(G) I think since we were born, for us, the reason we were painting and drawing, even if it’s a small little drawing, this little drawing can be a portal for us. Because we can really fly away from reality, and now we’re jumping inside these magic and lucid dreams and bringing them alive into our reality.
So, it’s like an exchange. We have this portal every time we’re drawing, every time we’re painting. Sometimes we do a small drawing and it’s a big portal, and sometimes it’s a really big painting with a little detail on the wall, and that is the portal. Especially when you do exhibitions. We use the space of the shows as a place that we can really transform, to create our own world and our own portal.
Why did you find it important to make a whole show around this idea?
(O) I think it started really naturally in a way when we started painting in the streets of São Paulo. Because here it is pretty much a mess and totally out of control, the city is completely out of control. I think when we started to do pieces outside of the city it kind of opened a door, a window, or a portal for us, first of all, and then for the people in the surrounding areas. The people that live around or pass by the walls.
Because we started off painting in these really rough places, with people living on the streets, really poor, children going hungry, awful stuff. We found that painting there was kind of a gift for them, give some hope, a better atmosphere. Make things happier and more colorful. This was in a way, the way we tried to open a window, to try help people get out of this sad, crazy, and out of control reality.
It started like this. Those lessons we have taken with us through life.
Was there one portal in particular that you went through in real life recently that felt as if it had particular importance?
It’s really about the world we create. We created our own world, it’s called Tritrez. Now our drawings come from Tritrez, a portal we discovered a long time ago, by ourselves. And we believe that all our drawings come from this world that we created. We felt it was important to share this with people. So, we started painting.
Give the people access to your world.
I know you guys said once that you have the same dreams every night, is this still true?
(G) Yeah, yeah, not every night, but it still happens.
You mentioned lucid dreaming earlier, do you ever lucid dream? If so, can you describe that feeling?
(G)We always dream. Every night we have a dream. Most of the time, 99% of the time, we remember all our dreams. It serves as inspiration, we get inspired by some of these dreams. It can be funny to compare with reality. Things that we dream can be things we’re going to live, we have a lot of déjà vu that happens as well. For us its very normal to share the same dream, and we’ll dream something and then it will happen.
I think it’s a really good way to learn, in life, dreams can teach you a lot. We believe in that, you can really learn about life, and about everything, in your dreams. We take a lot from it on our creative side. They can be very powerful and inspiring.
Is that kind of what you want your shows to feel like? Your dream world become reality?
(O) We are too deep inside of our world that sometimes we do a show and -
(G) It happens very natural.
(O) Yeah, it’s very normal for us, to do what we do.
We don’t know how it feels to not be thinking, seeing, and living like this. What is it like to not be inside of our world?
We’d have to be born again as a different person.
It’s all just too important to us.
What is this show supposed to tell people?
(O) I think there are a lot of messages. Depending on how open people are and how open you are to see and feel them. There are a lot of emotions there. When we do a show, we show who we are. It’s totally transparent, its totally truthful about who we are. The story we have, we try to share the best we can. Because once you share with somebody, you can inspire them and change their dreams in a good way. I hope we can give hope, for someone who believes in art or believes in themselves, believes they can do what we do.
Especially since we come from Sao Paulo, from Brazil. The art scene here is a small circle, it’s very difficult to get in. It’s really, really small.
(G) We come from the graffiti world. Like street graffiti, not street art and stuff like that. We come from graffiti and hip hop, tagging and throw ups, real graffiti. Besides that, we always did our installations, our sculptures and painting in the studio. And we remember how hard it was to do a simple exhibition here. They were not open for this, the galleries were not open for this kind of artist, let’s say.
We did a show first in New York, New York was the place that really opened some doors. Well first was actually, first was in California, in San Francisco, we did the Luggage Store Gallery and New Image Art Gallery. Then in 2005, we started to work with Jeffrey Deitch. And after that, Lehmann Maupin. But Jeffrey Deitch in 2005 was the first big show we had inside the contemporary art scene. After that we started to work in Brazil, in a gallery in Brazil. But first, New York, and before the U.S. it was Europe. That’s how we started.
(O) So, we started first working outside of Brazil, then they saw us doing stuff outside and invited us to work here (in Brazil). We know how hard it is, to get a spot, to get a gallery to show your work. And I hope with our shows, here in Brazil, and around the world, that we can open the door for other artists, other people that believe in this.
We used to say for example, that the show we have now in the museum here (Pinacoteca). It’s not only about is, it’s about our culture, it’s about people who have no studio, have no gallery, working at home, and painting. It’s for these people to believe that it is possible, and that the door is open. We win, but we don’t win alone.
(Goes into Portuguese) A gente não está vencendo sozinho. Todo mundo está vencendo com isso porque é uma conquista, sabe? E como conquistar um espaço. E que agora e obrigatório que as galerias, os museus, e curadores enxerguem que existe muitos outros artistas aí fora boa pra caramba.
(Translation): We are not winning alone. Everybody is winning with us because this is a conquest, you know? We are conquering a space. Now we’re making it obligatory for these galleries, museums, and curators to look beyond the norm and see that there are many other artists out there that are really good.
Growing up you guys were very influenced by New York and hip-hop culture, the four pillars of hip-hop. I was curious about what parallels you guys see between São Paulo and New York City?
(G) Oh totally, first off, hip-hop started in New York in the 70’s. They didn’t call it hip-hop back then, it started in the 70’s. It took us a 10-year difference, almost 10 years, to arrive in Brazil. The first time we saw hip-hop was 1984. In 84 in NY it almost finished, 85 was the last year of the break dancing. Then hip-hop of course continued, but the power of the break dance, when we started (Brazil in 1984), was almost finished by 85 (in New York). 1985 the scene really started here (São Paulo). When they started showing movies in the theatres, two in particular, Beat Street and Breakin’. The whole movement started here in Brazil after these two movies. It was the main influence for all of Brazil. Then across the whole country you would start to see b-boys, b-girls, graffiti, DJ’s, rap. It all started at this time. It’s funny to see how late things arrive here, but there’s something good in this too. It makes us be more creative, we don’t have a lot of information, so we have to create things by ourselves, from what we imagined.
I remember 1988 Kool Moe Dee came to Brazil, and all the b-boys got together to go to the airport to receive him, to welcome him. Everybody dressed real old school style. I can only imagine what he thought when he arrived in Brazil and saw all these crews, with b-boys, in 1988. When in NY it was almost finished, the b-boy scene.
It was like a time machine.
(G) Yeah, like, in 1996, that was the first we saw Rock Steady Crew in Brazil. They traveled all around the world but never traveled to Brazil in the 80’s. They arrived here in 96 and it was the same. All the b-boys went to the theatre to see them. They were giving their clothes to everybody. It was funny.
(O) They said, “Wow you guys still have the fat laces in the Pumas and all that? You guys have the real shit!”
(G) Yeah you guys have the real shit. I remember when Ken Swift told us, “You guys have the spirit. Never let that go.”
(O) I think, to live in the same continent, America. I think there is a real relationship between São Paulo and New York, a lot, the ghetto, the immigrants, the way the cities evolve downtown, you know. The violence, the gangs, the everything, pretty much the same.
(G) I think São Paulo now is like New York in the 80’s, same thing, you know. We have Crackolandia, you go to the downtown, you see how crazy it is. I think it’s the same as NY in the 80’s, the graffiti all over the city, same thing.
(O) The only difference is, we are very flexible here. They don’t really take care of it, it’s more abandonment. The city is like, you can do whatever you want. You never know, it’s a city that you never know. Times Square back in the day, in the 70’s, it was crazy. Totally crazy. Times Square, the center of the whole world now, it was all crime then.
(O) Now it’s totally another thing. And São Paulo now we have the same situation from the 70’s in New York. If you go to downtown São Paulo, it’s crazy man. Crack everywhere, garbage in the street. Graffiti. People selling drugs. It’s the whole thing.
(G) A lot of corruption, you know. It’s fucked up, our country. Corruption and political shit.
(O) I don’t categorize graffiti as a bad thing. Graffiti shows a story, it’s the voice of the people, the voice of what’s happening. We have this voice that will never shut up.
(Q) How do you guys draw your influence from Sao Paulo and how has your work been affected by growing up there?
(G) We have been inspired since were children, to do art. We grew up in this neighborhood, Cambuci, playing in the streets every day. With our family, our older brother Arnaldo, and our sister Adriana. Arnaldo was very creative back then and he always pushed us to be creative too. We would hang out in the streets and we met the first b-boys and b-girls in 1984 in our neighborhood. In the same neighborhood we had these old abandoned factories that we would go inside and paint graffiti. Being in the street every day. Being creative. You had to be creative to find ways to play.
And drawing, we’ve always been drawing since we were 3 years old. Always drawing, we never stopped. So, it was very natural to put all this influence inside of our work. I think the city gave us the power, the energy, to be creative. To change something. And now we give it back to the city, when we go out painting. It’s like somehow, we made this dialogue. We’re trying to discover what Sao Paulo is and give back a positive portal to the people who live here in the streets.
Would you say that when you guys are working together, which is all the time, is your process a compromise between you two? It seems like you’re usually tapped into the same idea.
(O) Yeah, it’s the same idea, the same thing. I know everything he’s going to draw, and he knows everything I’m going to draw.
Have you ever made a piece together without ever verbally speaking?
(G) Yeah, we even did it when we were children one time. In school. We made the same drawing and were in different classes. The teacher went crazy.
What are your goals? Is there anything you really want to accomplish that you think you can’t right now?
(G) Well we are very happy with this show, that’s going to happen here in Brazil, in Sao Paulo. But, we’ve got to think about the moment now. Our moment now is to complete this show. Finish the exhibition, the installation, the way we dreamed. Of course, we have a lot of new projects for the future.
(O) But I think, we (Goes into Portuguese) Tomar atter atendido com o nosso trabalho, nossa arte, nossa historia, nossa Carrera, nosssa caminhada toda, ter dado muito inspiranca pra muito gente. Da mesma forma de que in the 80’s hip-hop gave us a hope. Because we grew up in a neighborhood that had drug dealers, crime, and everything around us there. But hip-hop gave us a hope. I hope we took that energy and put it inside of ourselves, learned with this, and tried to do the same for other people in different ways. With our style of drawing, our media, and our ideas. (back into portuguese) A genre acredita tambem que a gente pode ter tado essa esperance pra um menino o uma meninna que ta querando comecar pintar. E ve o nosso trabaalho na rua, o no museu, o emu ma parede.
(Translation) We hope that with our work, our art, our story, our career, our whole path, that we are able to inspire as many people as we can. In the same way that in the 80’s, hip-hop gave us that hope. Because we grew up in a neighborhood that had drug dealers, crime, and everything around us. But hip-hop gave us hope. I hope that we took this energy and kept it inside of ourselves, learned from it, and tried to do the same for other people in different ways. With our style of drawing, our media, and our ideas.
(Translation) We want to be able to give that hope to a boy or a girl that is starting out painting. They may see our work on the street, or in a museum, or on a wall. We want them to know that they can follow what their heart wants to follow, no matter what it is. Music, dance, painting, skating, surfing, doesn’t matter. If they can see what we did and believe that within them is the potential to follow their own path, that’s the impact we want to have. Doesn’t matter what it is, it matters that it’s theirs. It matters that it’s positive and that it’s real. That essence can change the world and change the people around them for the better.
Truth, honestly, and inspiration through your work. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to do with your voice.
O) We try. Every time we do a little piece, a little drawing, or a giant mural on a building, it’s the same. It’s communicated, and it’s shared. You share directly and indirectly what you believe, and it’s a lot of responsibility I think. You’re putting out there what you believe, so it’s a huge responsibility if you think about it. The objective is peace, unity, love, and having fun.
I think everyone can agree on that, hopefully. And you guys seem to work in so many mediums, from sculpture to reclaimed and repurposed items, and of course graffiti. Is there any medium that you feel you have yet to explore, or are excited to push forward into?
O) Its good when you discover your world and your style. and you can put it into many different mediums and experiences. I think there is so many things we want to do and work with, our work is so open to that. We can explore and try different things. So, we will do that, we want to do so many other things. It’s never enough time. Life is too short once you open this window and discover your own world. I think that life is too short, and you have to run and worry, it’s a lot of ideas and a short amount of time.
No wasting time, no wasting time with bullshit. Once you are creating, just keep creating. Don’t waste your time with sadness and badness, things like that.
G) I think an artist serves as a filter. Materialize things that people can share and get inspired by. It’s like a voice, a silent voice. Once you see a wall painted, no matter who did it, it’s like a voice speaking to you. When you see a subway car painted in the morning when you wake up at 5am or 6am to go to work, and you see a whole train pass by completely full of color, this is someone talking to you.
Speaking through the streets.
O) It’s like a wakeup call, they’re saying we are here, we are sons, the sons of the city. The knights of the night. It’s powerful.
We’re really proud to have done some murals in New York. We have one on 14th street between 6th and 7th. We were really happy to do that. The guy that hooked us up with this, Nat (Nat Rahav), really good friend, really good DJ. He helped a lot to make this happen for us. It was very gratifying.
We had the opportunity to do one wall, then we got another wall, right across from each other. We decided to do an homage to hip-hop culture. To pay respect to these people. From the first people who started the movement to the people to out there today, doing DJ’ing, rapping, b-boys or b-girls. It felt like giving back to New York, paying homage, trying to keep this movement alive as much as possible. Trying to make people see that this is a very important culture that started in New York and went worldwide. It helped a lot of people, a lot of kids. It’s the voice of many, many, many generations. So, we wanted to find a way to give back and pay that respect, pay homage to everyone. Some are not with us anymore, Rest in Peace. Some of the old school b-boys
All the guys who inspired the whole world and made it possible for us to do what we do. That’s the way we try to give back. Showing they are here, they are alive, they continue on. Please respect. Respect the old school, respect the new school, respect the future of hip-hop. Because its really strong, this movement, this culture, this lifestyle, it’s really important.
100%, it’s inspiring the youth from generation to generation.
G) Imagine how many lives have been saved. Millions, instead of doing dangerous things, they’re doing breakdancing, doing graffiti. It’s crazy, this subculture, you know.
Yeah, it’s brought so many people together as a worldwide community.
G) Yeah exactly. So yeah, we were really happy to do that project there. To do that wall. We met a lot of writers when we were painting there, some we’ve known for a long time and some we just met. The new generations of writers, super cool man, the guys really love it and pay respect. They said, “You guys can do whatever you want but you drew something for us. Something that comes from here, for the world to see. You could have put anything up there, a Brazilian guy. But, you guys put us there, thank you.” We received a lot of thank you’s for that. We said, it’s not us you have to thank, we have to thank you. We want them to stop there and say, “Hey, that’s me! I wore those glasses and rocked that boombox!” We met a lot of people from our generation and a little older, they stopped and took pictures. They are able to see themselves represented out here. That’s why we did it.
Having that connectivity with the people you’re making the art for.
(O) In the U.S. things move so fast, always changing, style and trends. Ok we don’t wear that hat anymore, we wear this, we don’t wear our shirt like that anymore, we do this. Everything goes really, really fast, and we’re talking about 30 plus years ago. So, for people to remember that, that specific jean jacket or whatever it was. It’s good to keep that alive. We understand how difficult it was, to get a pair of shoes, or get a jacket. Here
(in New York) it was already hard, in Brazil it was impossible. We used to fake all our shoes, we would paint Puma, Nike, or Adidas on all our shoes and jackets. We didn’t have it here.
You gotta do what you gotta do.
(O) Yeah man, improvise!
It’s a beautiful thing to be able to give back to the culture that initially fostered your creativity. Getting back to the show at hand, was there anything that you wanted to get out there about your new exposition?
(G) Pinacoteca, we don’t know when it’s going to open. But once it’s open it is going to be one of the most important shows of our life. Because it’s a retrospective show of our life, drawings from when we were 4 years old to the drawings that we are making right now.
So, it’s going to be a huge show, with every medium we do. Painting, sculpture installation, videos, everything is going to be there.
(O) It’s going to be a really, really big show. Very complete. The show runs from our birth, to the influence of our grandparent’s music from Lithuania, or our older brothers rock n roll. The streets of Sao Paulo and jumping into hip-hop, then going into the mystical. Everything together. It’s a really important show for us.
(G) Not just for us, but for all of Brazil.
(O) We hope that this show can travel.
Is it going to be a similar showing to you are planning to do with Lehmann Maupin?
(O) We wanted to do a similar style to what we showed with them last time, installation, sculptures, everything. Make a really immersive world that you can get inside and understand our minds. But with the pandemic, everything changed. All the plans changed. All the art transportation, traveling. We are here in Brazil and cannot go to New York anymore. We don’t even know when we’ll be able to go.
(G) We had to adapt to everything. The show was ready, all packed to travel to New York. Then we had to adapt, we changed the concept a little bit, not 100%. We like the idea that it’s there now. People will be able to see our paintings individually and jump inside to each one separately. Instead of the big installation. Then we’ll save all these installations that we have here for the next show in New York, 2022.
This show is more of an adaption to Coronavirus. You’ll see, it’s more simple because it is more paintings on the walls, but the paintings are very strong. We dedicated a lot to these paintings. We pushed all our energy into every single painting, so the paintings are very strong. There is a piece of our installations inside of every single painting, but it’s not an installation show, it’s more of a painting show.
(G) Because of Covid, you know, we wish none of this happened. We wish we could be in New York, working on the show the way we want.
Yeah, we wish too.
(O) Unfortunately, we have to improvise again.