Young black Brazilian painter makes art wave

22-year-old self-taught artist Johnny Alexander Gomes has made a splash on the Brazilian art scene.
Known as “Hota”, his works are highly sought after by collectors both at home and abroad. His creations come from the slums of Chapadao in Rio de Janeiro, or the poor, working-class neighborhood where he grew up and where he and his mother still live.

He belongs to a new generation of black artists who were born in the favelas of Rio and are making their mark in contemporary art fairs and prestigious museums. “I paint everyday scenes. I want to capture everything that happens here on canvas,” he says.

Jot’s early work was done using cheap acrylic paint on wooden planks collected from construction sites. But that all changed when an Instagram photo of his work caught the attention of Margaret Telles, founder of the MT Projetos de arte platform.

Now, she provides Hoth with materials, a studio in the city center, and sells his work. At the annual ArtRio contemporary art fair, his paintings sell in a matter of hours. In the last edition last September, one of his works sold for around 2700 euros. With this money he bought a house 100 meters from his mother’s house. She still can’t get used to his success.

Marilena told Alexandra da Silva: While Jota now paints in her studio in a much more affluent area overlooking Rio’s famous Sugarloaf Mountain, she continues to draw inspiration from the slums. “I think we need to show what is happening in the slums so that people can report on it.

For me, this is a constant need,” he said. Police brutality and everyday hardships in difficult neighborhoods are among the themes of his work, but he also tries to show the other side of life in the slums. The charm of ‘double houses’ lined up next to tropical palm trees, and the ‘punk dance’ atmosphere frequented by Chapadao youth.

“I believe that collections need ‘ambient’ art, or art that comes from these places. This innovation is needed. Fix it, bring in these artists, and invest in them.

So hopefully more and more institutional doors will open for these artists,” said Margaret Telles. Last year, Jota exhibited one of his works at the São Paulo Museum of Art alongside a painting by the modernist Candido Portinari, one of the most famous artists in Brazilian history.

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