If you ever find yourself mesmerized by the mash-up of photorealism and bold lines staring back at you from a concrete wall, there’s a good chance you’ve just encountered Mr. Dheo street art. Mr. Dheo, an artist based in Portugal, has been lighting up the streets of his native Porto and beyond with incredible graffiti art for nearly twenty years. He has endured arrests as a teenager, technical setbacks as he learned on the job, and all of the usual frustrations that artists encounter. But his insatiable need to unleash what’s inside his head has mapped out quite a career for the self-taught artist.
Mr. Dheo’s Humble Beginnings
As a child, Mr. Dheo actively sketched and copied text from newspapers and magazines, but it was a growing interest in hip hop that led him to try his hand at small street art projects in the late nineties. He created his earliest significant works in 2000, and his career blossomed from there. Mr. Dheo street art often is a form of social engagement, tackling issues ranging from the dangers of social media obsession to racism through carefully chosen images. A humble artist, he is quick to credit those who help and inspire him during interviews and promotional statements. Also a savvy and hardworking artist, Mr. Dheo manages all aspects of his career, from the artwork itself to the videos chronicling his process as well as his social media presence.
Mr. Dheo’s Style: Photorealism Meets Street Art
Looking at Mr. Dheo street art, it’s hard to avoid noticing the artist’s love of realism – but it’s hardly a stodgy or dated version of realism. It’s fresh and bold, mingling with abstract patterns and design motifs. In an interview with the design collective Abduzeedo, Mr. Dheo remarks that photorealism is “the most difficult thing to do with spraycans.” It is that challenge that motivates him to refine his skills while borrowing from the visual style of street artists past and present. The result is imagery that is both electrifying for its bold, graphic compositions and subtle for its use of a wide tonal range. Many of his images prominently feature faces, which he patiently sculpts by building gradations of value. A gifted designer with a knack for compositions, Mr. Dheo anchors these faces with strong black outlines and dramatic patterns. His style calls to mind Pop Art greats like James Rosenquist, who combined an illustrative approach to painting faces with strong design sensibilities, and Renaissance artists from centuries ago.
To make matters even more challenging, sometimes Mr. Dheo ventures beyond flat surfaces for his art. To raise awareness of drunk driving’s dangers a few years ago, Mr. Dheo used the combined sides of a pile of scrapped cars as his canvas. A young woman’s face takes over the surface of the cars. Tears stream from her wide eyes while her mouth hangs helplessly open. Mr. Dheo renders her youthful face in glossy perfection, with a shock of bleached blond hair on top. It’s hard to think of a better use of materials and subject matter for such a convicting statement.
Where to See New Works by Mr. Dheo
You can check out new Mr. Dheo street art in over forty cities across the world. Most of Mr. Dheo’s work is on view in public places, free from the institutionalization of museums and galleries, but some of it shows up in unexpected places – like on soccer cleats. In 2015, Mr. Dheo teamed up with U.S. soccer star Clint Dempsey to develop what Nike dubbed the Nike Tiempo Legend Clint Dempsey Cleat. The customized cleat features the American flag draped across the surface with Dempsey’s name stamped on the sides. This was not the first time that Mr. Dheo collaborated with Nike, as he produced another cleat for them in 2013 to honor soccer striker Mario Balotelli’s move to soccer club AC Milan.
If you’re in the U.S., head to Austin to see First rule is. Completed in 2019, this mural art depicts Fight Club stars Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Norton’s face shows his trademark squint and a cigarette drooping from his mouth. He stares blankly to the left, while Brad Pitt’s likeness emerges in cool tones over his shoulder. It’s a true emblem for nineties nostalgia.
While we usually think of street art as an urban enterprise, the countryside is fair game, too. In 2015, Mr. Dheo crafted a mural on the side of a rural Virginia barn. Created in a style reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers, the image shows a wide-eyed man looking in wonder at the egg-shaped globe cupped in his palm. Curvy text exclaims, “Nature is not a place to visit, it is home.” A Mr. Dheo photo gallery on his Facebook page shows an aerial shot of this mural, which ties perfectly to the pastoral countryside of barns and silos.
The Most Recent Mr. Dheo Street Art
Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Dheo collaborated with fellow Portuguese street artist Pariz One in Instanbul, Turkey. Together they honored Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who rose to prominence as a climate change activist. When Thunberg skipped school in 2018 to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament building, she inspired other young people to pick up the fight for climate change activism in their own countries. Mr. Dheo and Pariz One use the side of an apartment building as their canvas, fracturing the left portion into a dizzying blanket of dark and light pink triangle. Thunberg consumes the right side, her faced fixed into a resolute expression perfect to honor the young change maker.
Follow and Connect with Mr. Dheo Online
If you want to learn about Mr. Dheo street art or can’t see his work in person, it’s pretty easy to see all of his projects online. Follow him on Twitter (@MrDheoOfficial), Instagram (@mrdheo) or Facebook (@MisterDheo). His website includes galleries of work recent and old, and his social media accounts show off his latest creations.
Mr. Dheo street art is some of the most striking and moving work around, and it offers food for thought in a world that is spellbound by social media and divided on many issues. Take the time to see how he wields a spray can to do some good in the world.