27 Club mural by Kobra Street Art featuring Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

In Living Color: The 2018 Kobra Street Art Occupation of New York City

Updated March 17, 2019

If you’re wandering around New York City you might come across these stickers that read “Are you addicted to street art? You’re not alone. There is help! 24/7 Street Art Addiction Hotline,” followed by a phone number. It’s just a clever street art campaign, but if your Instagram feed is anything like mine, you might wonder if this is a real thing. And for months, there was a LOT of street art around NYC, thanks to world-famous street artist Eduardo Kobra.

Kobra and New York City

Einstein We Heart NY mural by Kobra Street Art in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s We Heart NY Squared mural in Chelsea

Throughout 2018, Kobra added color to the New York City landscape with an incredibly ambitious series of  giant murals. It’s a continuation of his long-running international “Colors of Liberty” project, which ostensibly seeks to both highlight iconic figures who have promoted peace and inspire public dialogue about such complex issues as race, violence, and the cause of immigrants. Most of Kobra’s works are portraits punched up with vibrant hues, and his subjects run the gamut from entertainers to humanitarians to physicists.

But this isn’t the first time Kobra has left his mark in New York City. In 2012 he recreated “The Kiss” by Alfred Eisenstaedt in a giant space at 10th Ave and 25th Street, in full view from the High Line. [Captured on August 14, 1945, the iconic photograph portrays a US Navy sailor grabbing and kissing a stranger on Victory over Japan Day in Times Square.] But this time, he’s back with 18 incredible new murals. Here’s a handy map of where you can find all of them:

Making a statement

C3PO Stop Wars mural by Kobra Street Art in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s C3PO mural on the West Side Highway in NYC
Einstein on a bicycle mural by Kobra Street Art in NYC via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s Einstein on a bicycle mural in Midtown East

Like many of his contemporaries, Kobra is a street artist who uses his murals as a platform for his political and social views. He joins the ranks of other renowned artists like Banksy and JR, who refuse to shy away from discussing important current events. He attributes this to the anti-establishment legacy of hip hop culture he grew up with. In his New York City residency, there’s a C3PO mural that sits along the West Side Highway with a sign reading “Stop Wars”. The play on words is similar to one of his murals in Miami’s Wynwood Walls, where Yoda is holding the sign.

There’s also a tall mural of Einstein in Midtown East, which mirrors one he did in his home of Sao Paulo in 2015. The artist wanted to weigh in on a heated debate about adding bicycle lanes to the city to relieve congestion, and he did so with a mural of the famous physicist on a bicycle. [Einstein is rumored to have hatched many of his theories while cycling.] This one is simply titled “Genius Is To Bike Ride”.

Artistic inspiration 

27 Club mural by Kobra Street Art featuring Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s 27 Club Mural featuring Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain

Some murals are less of a statement and more of an homage. Kobra, who is self-taught, has not only referenced famous street artists like Banksy and Basquiat as inspiration, but also more traditional artists like Gustav Klimt and Jackson Pollock. A portrait of New York City pop artist Roy Lichtenstein is one of the pieces in his 2018 New York City residency, and it masterfully merges Lichtenstein’s signature style with his own. A portrait in Brooklyn is the amalgamation of Frida Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera. Meanwhile, on Rivington Street, Kobra immortalizes five members of the 27 Club–all artists who died at the age of 27. The 27 Club mural includes the faces of Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse.

A Mount Rushmore of artists featuring Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat was Kobra’s final mural in New York City. Located above the historic Empire Diner in Chelsea, the work of art doesn’t just feature the faces of the legendary artists. Kobra included references to their personal works like Haring’s figures in motion and Basquiat’s dinosaur with a crown.

A rebel with a cause

Braves of 9/11 mural by Kobra Street Art in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s Braves of 9/11 firefighter mural in Midtown East
Mother Teresa and Gandhi mural by Kobra Street Art in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s Mother Teresa and Gandhi mural in Chelsea

Some of Kobra’s 2018 New York City murals also acknowledge a few important dates. His side-by-side portrait of a child and adult Michael Jackson celebrates what would have been the deceased entertainer’s 60th birthday. A mural of a kneeling New York Firefighter celebrated “The Braves of 9/11” on an anniversary of the tragedy. And one of Mother Teresa and Gandhi was completed in time to celebrate World Humanitarian Day.

Kobra set a Guinness World Record when he completed the Etnias mural for the Rio Olympics; it was the largest mural to be painted by one person at the time. [He later surpassed his own record.] As Kobra stated on the Rio 2016 official website, “These are the indigenous people of the world. The idea behind it is that we are all one. We’re living through a very confusing time with a lot of conflict. I wanted to show that everyone is united, we are all connected.”

Ellis Island mural by Kobra Street Art at City-As-School in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s Ellis mural at City-As-School
A wall of colorful murals at City-As-School in New York City including Kobra's Soulphia mural via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Biggest Mural in NYC at City-As-School including Kobra’s Soulphia

Along the same lines but with a more domestic message, Kobra’s Ellis Island mural–which addresses the hot topic of immigration–will be part of The Biggest Mural In NYC. The project graces the walls of City-As-School, once attended by Jean-Michel Basquiat, and will feature work by multiple artists, including students. Depicting the faces of five men and women who actually passed through the immigrant inspection station 100 years ago, the Ellis Island mural stands as a pointed reminder of the America’s history as a nation of immigrants.

Unique technique

Child and Adult Michael Jackson mural by Kobra Street Art in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s Michael Jackson mural in the East Village
Kobra's Bob Dylan Times They Are A Changin' mural in downtown Minneapolis via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s Bob Dylan mural in downtown Minneapolis

One of the things we enjoy most about Kobra’s work is its depth. The onlooker can come away from the experience with so many of their own ideas and interpretations. Take, for example, the frequent imagery he uses of faces merging in a pixelated blur, reflecting a transformation of sorts. Three recent examples in particular illustrate this perfectly. The aforementioned Michael Jackson mural illustrates the disparate appearance between the child who later became the reclusive celebrity. In Minneapolis, his Bob Dylan mural boasts three images of the iconic singer, with two of them–old and young–merging, with the ironic inscription “The times they are a-changin’”, speaking to both the singers longevity and how cyclical the issues of our time can be.

The Frida-Diego mural in Brooklyn joins the husband and wife artistic team of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in a much more straightforward manner: a portrait made up of a subtle collage of their distinctive features. This could be interpreted as a merging of their personalities, a physical representation of the concept of a partnership, or a clever inference to Frida’s artistic legacy usurping Diego’s.

How it all comes together

Andy Warhol. Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring and Basquiat mural by Kobra Street Art in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s Mount Rushmore mural while it was in progress
Mount Rushmore mural with Andy Warhol. Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring and Basquiat mural by Kobra Street Art in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kobra’s completed Mount Rushmore mural

Over the few months Kobra was in NYC, we were fortunate to witness Kobra put his street art pieces together. The artist makes use of a numbered grid to take his ideas from paper to larger-than-life murals. He often has a team that helps him execute his vision, but the portraits are entirely Kobra’s brainchild. He’s been known to visit galleries and museums to look for inspiration once he’s decided on the character or event he wants to portray. He doesn’t simply capture a likeness, he infuses it with depth that goes beyond a two-dimensional image.

What’s next

With New York City being the benefactor of 18 of Kobra’s unique, candy-colored portraits, you can literally spend days pondering the artist’s intentions or exploring your own interpretations–we certainly have. Keep checking back, should Kobra return to the city that never sleeps for another residency, you can be sure we’ll be following along and covering every line and every splash of kaleidoscopic color, down to the very last grid.

If Kobra’s amazing murals have ignited a new interest in the art of graffiti, then you’re in for a treat. New York City is home to an amazing number of expansive street art galleries. Our definitive guide 10 Exciting Places to Find the Best Street Art in NYC is a great place to start.

Somewhere to eat nearby

Whenever we feature something to see or do in New York City, we also like to offer up somewhere to grab a bite to eat. Mostly because one of the absolute joys of wandering around New York City is indulging in the myriad food options available. As Oscar Wilde said, “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” Here’s one of our favorites:

Brigadeiro Bakery

Interior ot Bridageiro Bakery in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Cups of coffee with five brigadeiros on a saucer at Brigadeiro Bakery in New York City via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you were to translate Kobra’s work into food, you couldn’t find a more perfect embodiment than in a brigadeiro. The traditional Brazilian dessert manages to be sweet, yet powerful. Made primarily with condensed milk and butter, brigadeiros offer a deep, satisfying creaminess that pairs perfectly with coffee or as a sweet treat on its own. At the Brigadeiro Bakery in SoHo, you’ll find a range of flavors from Nutella to Pecan Pie to Pistachio. Any purchase of coffee comes with a free brigadeiro of your choice, but since the truffle-like desserts are on the delicate side, you can definitely justify ordering more. Lots, lots more.

156 Sullivan St

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Sun : 12pm to 6pm

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Pinterest Pin with the images of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix from the 27 Club mural by Kobra Street Art in New York City with the caption "A Guide to Eduardo Kobra' New York City Residency" via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

– L. & J.

18 thoughts on “In Living Color: The 2018 Kobra Street Art Occupation of New York City”

  1. Hey guys! Beautiful roundup! I love Kobra’s work! I haven’t been able to get good pictures of it though. So I appreciate your post even more. I’ll need to make a more concerted effort.

    1. Trudy! Justin here. Lynn and I had so much fun running down all of Kobra’s work and doing the researching for the post. I can’t argue with you on the difficulty of capturing a good shot, though. Case in point, the Michael Jackson mural has this food truck that is parked right in front of it…as in all the time…and we popped by more than once at different hours.

      1. I’ve seen the food truck in every photo of that mural. I’m thinking that it’s an advertising plot by the guy who owns the food truck. LMAO!!

  2. I haven’t noticed the sticker. But you know what they say when you start to take interest in something, you see it everywhere. ( Like when someone is pregnant, she see pregnant woman everywhere. 🙂 )
    But Kobra makes some beautiful beautiful murals.

    Also those goodies look delish! Can’t wait to try brigadeiro.

    1. Hey Tara! Justin here. Thanks for dropping us a line. Now that we’ve put that sticker on your radar, you’ll definitely start noticing them everywhere. The way I notice donuts everywhere. 😛 Indeed, Kobra’s work is amazing and he’s crazy prolific. I hope he’s got a few more in him before he moves on, though. As for Brigadeiros, they’re wonderful with an espresso or a piping hot cup of coffee. Definitely worth trying out.

    1. Hey JAM! Great to hear from you! I’m so glad you had the chance to see one of these murals before you left. (Which one?) And we’re so happy you get to see the rest through our post! 🙂

  3. I love Kobra and love that you’ve put together a map of all his murals in NYC. I will definitely visit as many as I can. I fell in love with his work because of the Bob Dylan mural in downtown Minneapolis, and am in love with everything pictured in your post. Can’t wait to see them IRL 😉

    1. Thanks so much, Cynthia! The Bob Dylan mural IS fantastic. We were so happy when we happened upon it during our visit to the Twin Cities. And if you visit the NYC, we’ll have to catch up…IRL!

  4. Such an informative post. I like the coupling of the history of the artist, some of the technique, and the locations. I am definitely going to bookmark this!

    1. Thanks so much, Kevin! I think the city was quite fortunate to have been gifted so many pieces. I really enjoy learning about the story behind the work, and his murals are so thoughtful. Unfortunately, some of them have since been tagged over, but there are still plenty to admire all around town. I hope you catch a glance at a few of them!

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