Today, Eduardo Kobra provides custom art and murals for celebrities, festivals, and even the Olympics.
But where does this Brazilian artist find his inspiration, and how did he get his start?
We’ve unearthed Kobra’s fascinating story and found some of his most impressive pieces.
Let’s dig in!
The Story of Kobra
The artist, Eduardo Kobra, was born Carlos Eduardo Fernandes Léo on January 1, 1975 in São Paulo, Brazil.
He grew up in the poor neighborhood of Jardim Martinica, loved American hip-hop culture, and even became part of a breakdance crew. Eduardo did attend school at Escola Municipal Mauricio Simão. However, he didn’t get much formal education due to his passion for illegally tagging walls.
Before any official artwork, his taste for spontaneous street art was already apparent. He received warnings for his graffiti activities at school and was arrested three times for illegally tagging on walls near the school.
Simply nicknamed Kobra, he began his street art career in 1987 at 12, secretly drawing on walls. Within a few years, he was earning a living with his art. Eduardo created posters, painted toy scenarios, and produced images for the largest amusement park in Brazil.
The work was so successful that he received invitations to work for other companies and advertising agencies.
In the early 2000s, Kobra began his Memory Walls project, intending to transform urban space through his art. He brings back lost memories of his city while showing the stark contrast between São Paulo’s past and present.
This project incorporates old photos of São Paulo. These works are smaller murals featuring his trademark graffiti set throughout the city.
The popularity of Memory Walls gained Eduardo media attention in 2007 and led to his first mural outside of Brazil. In 2011, France invited him to paint a mural in the revived neighborhood of Lyon.
A few years later, Madonna saw Kobra’s Fight for Street Art mural and invited him to paint two murals at a pediatric surgery center in Malawi.
Overall, Kobra has worked for several large organizations and public figures and painted over 3,000 murals on five continents.
What Inspires Kobra’s Art?
If someone were to say bigger isn’t better, Eduardo Kobra would disagree. Massive, vibrant, bold, lively, breathtaking, mind-blowing, larger than life, and realistic. These are just a few adjectives that one can use to describe this artist’s stunning work.
Kobra finds inspiration from modern and contemporary artists worldwide. Banksy, Keith Haring, and Diego Rivera are primary examples. He also does extensive research on the science behind human eyesight, architecture, urban space, and three-dimensional projects in order effectively give his viewer a specific experience.
He paints famous works in his unique style, hoping to insert himself into history and bring awareness to São Paulo. Kobra’s ultimate goal is to create confusion for the viewer. This comes out of the human eye’s difficulty differentiating between sculpture and painting on a flat surface.
Eduardo Kobra uses his unique techniques when it comes to street art. This technique involves using an airbrush and spray paint. With these mediums, he can use immense detail with perfect aesthetics by contrasting light and shadow to make objects appear 3-D.
Did Kobra Set a Guinness World Record?
Eduardo Kobra’s massive legacy work began in 2016 when he and his team made headlines for his mural that lined Olympic Boulevard at the Rio Olympics.
The piece titled Las Etnias (The Ethnicities) reaches a height of 50 feet and measures over 32,000 square feet. The mural illustrates five larger-than-life faces from five continents, representing the five rings of the Olympics.
The massive work incorporated 100 gallons of white paint, 400 gallons of colored paint, 3,500 cans of spray paint, and two grueling months of 12-hour days. It certainly brightens up what used to be Rio’s run-down port district.
The Guinness Book of Records lists this as the largest mural by a team at that time. But Kobra’s team surpassed themselves in 2017 with a work in honor of chocolate at the Cacau Show Headquarters in Sao Paolo. This masterpiece took 700 hours to complete and more than doubled their previous record.
You can find this mural on the Castello Branco Highway in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo. Kobra and his team used 2,000 cans of spray paint and 1,400 liters of acrylic paint to complete the mural covering a surface area of over 61,000 feet.
This work depicts the history of the cocoa plant and honors the people who harvest and work in the cocoa industry and create the world’s most popular food, chocolate.
What Are Some of Kobra’s Art Pieces?
Kobra’s art demonstrates a powerful concern for the environment. His chosen themes range from fighting predatory fishing to stopping the exploitation of animals in events such as bullfighting. In addition, global warming, deforestation, and pollution appear in his murals.
Olhares Da Paz (Looks of Peace)
Eduardo’s interest in Human Rights inspired him to create a series he calls Recortes da História. Part of this series is the project Olhares Da Paz in which he portrays historical figures who have fought against violence and for peace throughout the world. Kobra’s art endorses and parallels the messages of non-violence and brotherhood.
Famous figures in these murals include Mahatma Gandhi, Anne Frank, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, The Dalai Llama, and others. There are plans to create 15 murals in the series on walls worldwide.
The Braves of 9/11
This mural, created in 2018, is a reinterpretation of Matthew McDermott’s famous photograph. It symbolizes the effort of the first responders after the terrorist attack at NYC’s Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
The image conveys regret for one of the greatest and most symbolic tragedies. In addition, it serves to magnify the courage of the people who gave their lives and put their well-being on the line. Ultimately, the piece is a message about life and new beginnings.
This mural is part of Kobra’s series Colors for Freedom. His inspiration is the 27 Club. The faces of Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Amy Winehouse display in bright colors on this gigantic mural.
Novels, films, and stage plays pay tribute to these five talented musicians who died too early. And the artist conveys the message that drug and alcohol abuse can lead people to lose everything, even life itself.
Eduardo Kobra created Clube 27 in 2018 for The Evolve Health + Wellness Center in New York. The purpose was to beautify an outdoor wall of their building suffering from vandalism. However, the intent is to bring a positive message to the Lower East Side community.
Where Can I See Kobra’s Art?
You can find most of Kobra’s art on his website or his Instagram page. In the past, he’s had notable exhibitions in Brazil, France, and the United States. Locations for his significant outdoor works include Moscow, Dubai, Tokyo, Mumbai, and Amsterdam.
New York City
You’ll find no less than 15 of Kobra’s murals in America’s most populous city. Upon Kobra’s return to New York City in August 2018, he’s been creating one mural after another.There’s even a map you can use to locate each piece. Most are in Manhattan, with several in Brooklyn and one in Hoboken, New Jersey.
In May 2016, Eduardo Kobra traveled to Chicago, Illinois, to participate in the Big Walls Festival. He painted the nine-story mural of blues legend Muddy Waters on State Street. The image was later dedicated to the City of Chicago in 2017 for the 34th Annual Chicago Blues Festival.
Kobra’s Optimism Uplifts Communities
Kobra has produced more than 500 works of art in 17 countries and continues to create. His style of realistic images painted in giant murals of kaleidoscopic colors that focus on societal issues and themes are easily recognizable. He also creates works with an element of the locations where he paints them, bringing a positive vibe to the area.
What do you think of Kobra’s style? Have you seen any of his work in person? Let us know!
Outside Folk Gallery
You can explore more folk, street, and outsider art in our personal collection at Outside Folk Art. We’re celebrating these creatives and giving voice to rising black, Native, immigrant, and working mother artisans.
We’ll also be offering pop-up shows and collaborations with small museums, so be sure to follow us to discover the where and when!