The nation of Brazil presents a land of contrasts: great cities surrounded by lush tropical rainforests. From frenetic Sao Paulo (with a population substantially greater than that of New York City) to beach-loving Rio de Janeiro (twice the size of Los Angeles) to the Oscar Niemeyer-designed modernist capital in Brasilia, Brazil's population dominates the South American continent.

Likewise, Brazil is home to some of the world's most diverse flora and fauna, particularly in the rainforests which cover nearly 60% of the nation's land area (and which account for one third of the world's rainforests.)

As a result, Brazilian artists have had a rich palette of influences from which to draw. Pittsburgh Festival Opera is pleased to welcome two very talented Brazilian artists, Wander Melo and Usiel Illustra, in an exhibit titled Urban Jungle: Brazil in Focus, in Winchester Thurston’s Cabaret Lounge throughout the festival season, July 1–23. The exhibit is free and open to the public, and all of the works displayed in the show are available for purchase. We encourage you to stop in during your visit to support these two up-and-coming artists.

Join us to celebrate the opening of the exhibit on Saturday 1 July at 6:30 pm. Free admission.



Usiel self portrait

Usiel Illustra is a self-taught artist. He went to school at the Accademia BB.AA Napoli, then attended the Accademia Tiberina Roma. He worked for Movimento Stati Uniti d'Europa before becoming an artist as well as a tattoo artist and Jiu Jitsu champion. His works have a pop art style to them, inspired by Andy Warhol and LeRoy Neiman.

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Melo portrait

Wander Melo lives in Rondonópolis, Brazil. He went to school at Escola Estadual de Ensino Médio Major Otávio Pitaluga (EEMOP), then attended Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso. He is a painter and designer for Artista Plastico. His works are a form of Modern Realism, painted with acrylics on canvas, mostly centered around Amazonian and nature themes.

He was introduced as an artist at the "III Salão Jovem Arte Mato Grosso" held in Cuiabá, Brazil in 1978. Among others, he participated in the IV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, and XX "Salão Jovem Arte Mato Grosso" receiving an outstanding prize in the XVIII. He was a member of the "Retratando Mato Grosso" collective at the Unesco foundation in Porto, Portugal in 1998, and "Artistas do Século" at the UFMT Museum of Art and Popular Culture (MACP) in Cuiabá, Brazil. In 2002, he participated in the show "Pintou MT" at Centro Cultural J.Otavio Guizzo and in that same year he made the individual exhibition "Man and Nature" in the Gallery of SESC Arsenal in Cuiabá, Brazil. He also won 2nd place in the "I Salão de Artes Plásticas”. He’s very excited to be showing his work in his very first U.S. exhibit.

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Brazilian rock art still exists from ancient times, but as the original inhabitants had no way of keeping or preserving their art, these rock art drawings are few and far between. Formal art wasn’t established in Brazil until the 1500s, when European settlers came.

Roman Catholic priests brought the Baroque style to Brazil in the 17th century. Art was now centered around religious figureheads. Paintings and sculptures were dramatic and bold.

In the 1800s, Realism and Romanticism were established.

Brazilian Romanticism was much different than its European counterpart. Taboo topics like death and cruelty were explored.

Brazilian Realism reflected the nature and landscape of the country.

The 20th century brought about another change to Brazilian art, turning it into more of a contemporary form, incorporating ancient body painting and feather art. This new form was used to address sensitive issues such as inequality, racism, sexism, and political superpowers. Brazilian artists developed their own style and identity, instead of playing it safe and following in the footsteps of European artists.

In the 1920s, a group called the Grupo dos Cinco emerged, calling for Brazilian artists to move away from European influences, creating a Modernist art movement.

Modern art was multicultural, reflecting everyday life and including all of the racial identities that made up Brazil. Bold earth tones were used, along with exaggerated features.