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In this essay, Pietro Maria Bardi discusses the Fotoformas series by Geraldo de Barros, drawing the reader’s attention to the abstract nature of the photographs, and going as far as to associate them with works by Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Max Bill. Bardi stresses the “pure language” of the “photo forms” created by superimposing negatives and linear strokes. In the critic’s opinion, the artist photographs reality, but is interested in the nexus between the lines and forms of the elements he has photographed. This is why, in many cases, it is almost impossible to distinguish between the referents and the images
Pietro Maria Bardi escreve sobre a série fotográfica Fotoformas de Geraldo de Barros e chama atenção para o caráter abstrato dos trabalhos, relacionando-os às obras de Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian e Max Bill. O autor destaca a "linguagem pura" das composições elaboradas a partir do entrecruzamento de linhas e da sobreposição de negativos. Segundo Bardi, Barros fotografa o real, mas seu interesse está voltado para as linhas e formas dos objetos enfocados, por isso, muitas vezes, não é possível distinguir a referência das imagens.
Organized by the MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo) in January 1951, Fotoformas was one of the first exhibitions of photographs to be organized by a Brazilian cultural institution. The abstract nature of the exhibit undoubtedly surprised many in the local art milieu. It was also one of the first exhibitions of a specifically constructive body of work by a Brazilian artist. In the late 1940s the Brazilian painter and photographer Geraldo de Barros (1923–98) read the thesis written by the critic Mário Pedrosa (1900–81) on Gestalt’s Theory, which was presented in 1949 and later published as Da Natureza Afetiva da Forma na Obra de Arte (Rio de Janeiro: Faculdade Nacional de Arquitetura, 1952). Based on that theory, Pedrosa started developing his thesis in support of abstract art.
In the early years of the following decade—after a study tour in Europe with the future journalist Cláudio Abramo—de Barros was among those who signed the radical manifesto of the grupo ruptura (with a lower case ‘r’ as in the group’s logo) that established the foundations of what would become the São Paulo Concrete movement headed by Waldemar Cordeiro. In 1950, de Barros and the Hungarian photographer Thomaz Farkas (1921–2011) were charged with installing a photographic laboratory at the MASP; de Barros was able to use that equipment to assemble his Fotoformas, which had been evolving over the years. The artist referred to that when he was interviewed by L. Wiznitzer, and the interview was published in the magazine Letras e Artes (Rio de Janeiro, August 10, 1952): He was asked, “Can there be abstract photography?” “Yes…!” was his reply, which he repeated in a subsequent article, “A sala de fotografia,” that was published in the 87th issue of the Boletim Foto-Cine Bandeirantes, São Paulo, February 1954. His poster was awarded the “Cuarto Centenario de la Ciudad de São Paulo” prize (1954), and he and the Dominican Fathers founded the Cooperativa de Producción de Muebles Unilabor—which, decades later, would become Móveis Hobjeto. In the 1970s he produced a vast number of outdoor advertising posters in São Paulo, and some of his concrete works were shown at a Venice Biennial organized by Radha Abramo. Due to several ischemic strokes in the 1990s he continued to design his concrete projects (on squared paper) that were made of Formica. In 1996 he once again began working with negatives with the help of his assistant, the photographer Ana Moraes. That was when he started producing the Sobras series.
The author of this essay, Pietro Maria Bardi (1900–99), was the director and driving force behind the construction of the current MASP building on Avenida Paulista (designed by his wife, the architect Lina Bo Bardi). He was a highly influential cultural promoter in Brazil, where he emigrated from Italy after the war. In addition to providing the museum with its own photography department, through which he encouraged and promoted photography’s recognition as an art form in Brazil, he also founded a design school at the museum and published the magazine Mirante das Artes.
A mostra Fotoformas realizada em janeiro de 1951 no Museu de Arte de São Paulo é uma das primeiras exposições fotográficas realizada em instituições culturais do país e surpreende o meio artístico pelo caráter abstrato das obras. É também uma das primeiras apresentações de um conjunto de trabalhos de teor construtivo, por um artista brasileiro. No fim dos anos 1940, Geraldo de Barros conheceu a tese de Mário Pedrosa sobre a Teoria da Gestalt e passou a acompanhar as argumentações do critico em defesa da arte abstrata. Na década seguinte, participa ativamente do movimento concreto paulista integrando o Grupo Ruptura e atua como designer de móveis na cooperativa de trabalho Unilabor. Em 1950, Barros havia montado o laboratório fotográfico do Museu de Arte de São Paulo, com o fotógrafo Thomaz Farkas, onde, provavelmente, produziu a maior parte da série Fotoformas. O diretor do Museu, Pietro Maria Bardi, foi um incentivador e ajudou o reconhecimento da fotografia como arte no Brasil.Sobre o assunto, ver:WIZNITZER, L. Poderá haver fotografia abstrata? Sim - responde o jovem artista brasileiro Geraldo de Barros em entrevista concedida a Letras e Artes. Letras e Artes, Rio de Janeiro, 10 de agosto de 1952.BARROS, G. A sala de fotografia. Botetim Foto-Cine Bandeirantes, São Paulo, n. 87, fev. 1954.
g- Contribuição de artistas ao projeto construtivo brasileiro
h- Abstração geométrica e arte concreta