The Brazilian artist Jota’s easel is set up in front of a window with a view of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Pan de Azúcar mountain, but he prefers to paint the modest houses of a favela. Jota’s paintings, inspired by the Chapadao favela in the north of Rio, where shootouts are frequent, have become highly sought-after by collectors in Brazil and abroad.
He portrays police violence with special realism in one of his paintings, which shows a group of neighbors carrying a corpse wrapped in a bloodstained sheet during a police operation in the favela. Jota also aims to convey “another view” of the favela, such as the charm of “stacked houses” next to tropical palm trees or the atmosphere of “funk dances” frequented by young people in Chapadao. Jota started painting at the age of 16 and painted his first creations on wooden boards he picked up on construction sites using cheap acrylic ink.
However, his life changed when photos of his works on Instagram attracted the attention of Margareth Telles, founder of the MT Projetos de Arte platform, who provides Jota with materials, a studio in the city center, and manages the sale of his works. Jota’s paintings sell out in hours at the annual ArtRio contemporary art fair, and one of his works sold for 15,000 reais (about USD 3,000 at the current exchange rate) at the last edition.
Last year, Jota exhibited one of his works at the São Paulo Art Museum (Masp), alongside a painting by the modernist Candido Portinari (1903–1962), one of Brazil’s most renowned painters. The emergence of young black artists like Jota “It is not a trend,” according to Telles, but “something that has come to stay,” driven in part by the global awareness raised by the death of the African American George Floyd at the hands of a white policeman in 2020.
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