Metaesquema No. 237
Hélio Oiticica (Brazilian, 1937-1980) MoMA
When we learned that Rio d Janeiro had edged out Chicago and others for the title of host of the 2016 summer olympics, I flew straight to the computer (who am I kidding, I read the press release on the computer; I’m always ON the computer) and looked up the museums central to Brazil’s cultural climate.
What I found was a world that I’ve only marginally explored. I’m guilty of looking internally to US-focused art and artists, and to Western Europe as well. But South America and Latin America often get the short end of the stick. From Mexico, we have Diego Rivera and his muse and probably better half, Frieda, and others. But what other master artists are lurking behind their shadows, just to the south?
Brazil’s contemporary arts scene is alive, and it’s traveling all over the globe. I researched one Brazilian artist just to get a taste. Hélio Oiticica is showing atMuseum of Modern Art, LACMA, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and overseas at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, and in Zurich at the Daros Exhibitions. He was an essential part of the geometric abstraction period between 1930s and the 1970s in Buenos Aires, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. His Metaesquemas series (shown above) is composed of squares and rectangles, showing influences of Piet Mondrian.
An exhibition at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona provided a great overview of his life and outlook:
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1937, Oiticica began to study art in his home city where he formed links with Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape’s Neo-concrete Group and participated in the Frente Group. From the outset, his work was geared towards condemning the living conditions and the political situation affecting Brazil… Oiticica posited that for artistic production to be ethical, it must be activated by its audience. In the late sixties and early seventies, Oiticica began creating architectural environments he called Penetrables and tent/cape/banner works he named Parangolés. Both the Penetrables and Parangolés were made to be inhabited, examined, worn, even hidden in; they are environmental structures, experienced by the participant.
After receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, Oiticica moved to New York where he lived from 1970 to 1978. He began to make films influenced by the cinema of Jack Smith and Andy Warhol and the popular culture of the United States. He undertook a series of projects under the umbrella title Quasi-Cinemas. Some of these were Super 8 films, but most of them were “projection-performances.” In 1973, as part of the Quasi-Cinemas, he made the series Block Experiments in Cosmococa, Program in Progress. The Cosmococas are composed of slide projections, environments, soundtracks, and instructions.
Hélio Oiticica died in Rio de Janeiro in 1980 aged 43.