For the Milwaukeeans who are still sour because of an $800,000 public art project that was scrapped recently, or because of a bronze erection of Henry Winkler that cost the tax payers approximately $85,000, you can now quit your belly-aching because there’s a new artistic spectacle in town that even Scott Walker would be proud of. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of Milwaukee’s early days of industry and drab brick buildings, a brilliantly colored mural rises 30 feet above Walker’s Point for all to see and enjoy. Now guess how many dollars this public art piece is going to cost the tax payers? Zero.
If you happen to be driving through the intersection of 1st and Pittsburg in the next week or two, you might be able to find the Mario Brothers of art, Chris and Alex Couto atop a scissor lift with stencils and spray paint, tag teaming the wall of an old brick building that was once used for storing mining cranes. As a challenge to themselves and a gift to the community, this Milwaukee art duo known as the Couto Bros has taken it upon themselves to create a public mural that is unparalleled in both design and color. “In tune with a lot of indigenous cultures, it’s a representation of a mask done in our style,” as described by Chris. The Couto Bros style of art could be described as organic, geometric, raw and colorful; a psychedelic juxtaposition of violence and beauty. It’s a style that reflects their passion for people, history and culture as much as their love for nature. “To do this mural, we studied a lot of African masks and masks through out the world,” said Alex. Even though they’ve done their homework, the Couto Bros have certainly had to study more than just masks to get where they are today as artists, individuals and as brothers.
Being raised in Brazil and having traveled extensively in Africa and Europe, the Couto brothers have traversed five continents, as well as having spent periods of time living in China and India. Individually, they started out doing totally different kinds of art. Each possesses a unique style, but it’s the cultural diversity experienced from abroad shared between the two that inspires them both creatively and spiritually. By brainstorming together and putting what each of them have to offer to the table, Alex and Chris have helped each other grow to form a dynamic and collaborative art duo.
“We want to give people something beautiful to look at that makes them feel good.”
Viewed as ‘folk art’ or even ‘crafts’ by a Western dominated modern art scene, the Couto Bros take the shapes and lines of this indigenous art and remix them with all the colors of the rainbow. Their work depicts figures of important social movements, war, violence and ugliness with an unrefined elegance intended to create awareness about our oft forgotten human history. In order to move towards a better future, we must reflect on the past and that’s just what Couto art is, an aesthetic reflection of the past. But according to Chris, “it doesn’t have to be all about certain messages.”
“Hopefully our art work reminds people of different aspects of life, of human beings and respect overall for people, for life, for nature, but we want to give people something beautiful to look at that makes them feel good,” as told by Alex, which is exactly what their current mural project does. It makes you feel good. According to the brothers, the mural isn’t linked to anything specific, but open for interpretation. Milwaukee has been home base for the Couto Bros for the last two years and the mural is their gift to the city. Harmonious with Milwaukee’s cultural diversity, it’s a work of art in the public sphere the city desperately needs. It’s a work of art that transcends, race, religion and ethnicity. It’s a work of art that anyone can enjoy and just makes you feel good, even Scott Walker.
Photos by Canny Photography