François Chastanet: Lettering in Public Space Workshop

François Chastanet has a background in architecture and graphic design, specializing in typography. His published work is an anthropological and historical approach to typography in public spaces. From this standpoint he investigated, through photography, the origins of “Cholo writing”, the graffiti of Latino gangs in Los Angeles.

Cholo writing can be traced back to the 1950s, long before the New York graffiti boom of the late 1970s.

He also investigated the inimitable Pixação letter style of the “pixadores”, grafitti writers from the favelas of Sao Paulo who took the city into their own hands. Their work becomes a political statement, wherein graffiti writers undertake dangerous or life-threatening actions in order to become visible. Recently, Chastanet completed extensive research into the phenomenon of water-based calligraphy made with giant brushes on the streets of China. Chastanet has published several books on Pixação including: São Paulo Signature and Cholo Writing in Los Angeles.

This workshop, that took place on 12 November 2011, explored new ideas and innovative ways to take public spaces into our own hands. Elements from the São Paulo’s pixadores’ mentality about architectural space was combined with the Chinese practice of placing of impermanent marks in the public sphere with water-based calligraphy. In this way, there could be colored within the lines of the law.

Read the (Dutch) blog report about the workshop here.