Hi Bob! Kobra Puts the finishing touches on his Dylan Homage

On Labor Day, I had the good fortune to witness Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra and his team complete a massive mural of iconic Minnesota singer and songwriter Bob Dylan. Here's what I saw.

Hi Bob! Kobra Puts the finishing touches on his Dylan Homage

I should begin by saying that my interest in Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra’s mural honoring Bob Dylan in downtown Minneapolis is both professional and personal.

As someone who runs a business with a mission to make art as accessible as bikes are, I have an affinity for public art in general, and murals in particular. A trip to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2005 helped put street art on my radar, and I make a point of seeking it out wherever my travels take me. Here in Minneapolis, we’re blessed with a bevy of local artists whose work — commissioned and otherwise — has seen a boom in recent years. A few have become regular contributors to ARTCRANK shows, much to my delight.

On a more personal note, Kobra’s sprawling depiction of Dylan over three phases of his storied career occupies the side of a building that I pass twice a day when I get to commute by bike. It’s been a bleak, blank canvas for as long as I can remember, so the idea of transforming it into something, anything of artistic value that I could appreciate from a bike’s-eye view on my roll through downtown was especially appealing.

Unfortunately for me, Kobra and his team of Brazilian and American painters began work on the mural at precisely the moment when the work behind the launch of our new site reached a critical point. Some days, between shuttling stacks of posters to our fulfillment house, poring over site content, and hammering out the logistics of shipping prints all over the world, I didn’t make it into the office at all. And when I did, it was usually on four wheels instead of two. The best I could do was eyeing the occasional progress report via social media between various site-related crises.

(As an aside, I found the volume of debate and snark around the subject of the mural and the artist who created it especially intriguing and amusing. I understand the regional pride and generational prejudice behind comments like “They should have used a Minnesota artist” and “They should’ve made it about Prince.” At the same time, I’m tempted to quote from the song that gave the mural its name: Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.)

We finally launched the site just before the Labor Day weekend in a span of days that disappeared completely in a flurry of activity, excitement, and exhaustion. Luckily, I’d had the foresight to book a morning appointment for a massage on Monday, September 7, my massage therapist and I both completely forgetting about the whole holiday thing. His studio sits about halfway between our house and the site of the mural. Freshly pummeled, I threw a leg over my bike and pedaled through mostly deserted downtown streets to the corner of Hennepin Avenue and 5th Street.

With a little luck, I figured I might get to see the finished product. As it turns out, I had more than a little luck.

As I turned off of Hennepin into the parking lot that border the building that’s home to mural, a single painter pivoted across the wall on an articulating boom, adding highlights to 1970s Dylan’s unruly mop. I snapped a few photos from various vantage points, amazed by the level of detail worked into a mural that takes up every square inch of a work that’s 150 feet wide and 60 feet tall.

After a few minutes, the painter working on the boom descended and walked across the parking lot to get a look at the mural from further back. As he passed, I caught his eye, and he gave me a thumbs-up gesture with an inquiring expression, sort of a non-verbal “Look good to you?” I replied a thumbs-up of my own, and a tap to the heart. He smiled, nodded, and moved on for another angle.

I wanted to tag Kobra in the photos I was taking, so I did a quick search for “Eduardo Kobra” on Instagram. His profile image is his face rendered in his signature diamond kaleidoscope pattern. I looked up from my phone just in time to see the man himself walking in to the parking lot to talk with guy I’d just passed. Based on the way he was smiling as he sized things up, it dawned on me that I’d just seen, or was about to see, the last flourishes of paint to go on the wall.

Sure enough, an assistant maneuvered a boom to the far end of the parking lot, and Kobra climbed aboard with a photographer to shoot what I can only assume is the image below. I stuck around to watch the photo session for the better part of an hour, but eventually my appetite won the argument with my curiosity, and I decided to head home.

As I wheeled my bike out of the parking lot, I passed Kobra and one of his assistants. I stopped to shake their hands and thank them, managing to drop the one potentially applicable scrap of Portuguese I could call to mind: Perfeito.

Photo by Eduardo Kobra: http://eduardokobra.com

Photo by Eduardo Kobra: http://eduardokobra.com

Note: The Star Tribune put together an excellent set of photos showing the mural from start to finish. And Euan Kerr of Minnesota Public Radio produced several excellent stories about the mural, notably this one about the completion of the project.