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The critic Ferreira Gullar interviews the artist Ivan Serpa, who thinks that painting represents the contradictions of his contemporary world, which builds devices that are designed to destroy and others that allow mankind to float around in outer space. Serpa believes that artists have two roles, one of which is to develop techniques for industrial work, and the other is to make people think about the world. He is sure that there is no narrative theme or expressionism in his painting; his work is focused on mankind and its problems, thus avoiding purely aesthetic questions. After experiencing what had happened since the mid-1950s, he admits that “concrete art” was a mistake; it lacked consistency and was doomed to failure in Brazil. Unable to understand the country and its underdevelopment, a highly technical form of art such as concrete art could only be pretentious. Serpa can see that the art market rapidly swallows up young artists, and notes the proliferation of fake primitive artists. He fantasizes about his works being shown in high traffic areas where they could be seen by everyone. He believes that art should communicate something to the community, and should be shown in live, educational museums that cater to the general public.
O crítico Ferreira Gullar entrevista o artista Ivan Serpa, que acredita que sua pintura representa o contraditório mundo da época, no qual se constroem engenhos de destruição e outros capazes de levar o homem a flutuar no espaço cósmico. Serpa entende que os artistas atendem a duas funções: desenvolvem técnicas para trabalhos na indústria e fazem com que as pessoas pensem sobre o mundo. Afirma não haver em suas pinturas nem temas narrativos, nem expressionismo. Seu foco estaria no homem e em seus problemas, não em questões estéticas puras. Admite que a arte concreta foi um equívoco, sem consistência, e nunca poderia dar certo no Brasil. Faltariam meios de entender o país e sua condição de subdesenvolvimento, tendo sido pretensiosa a arte altamente técnica. Percebe a rápida absorção dos artistas jovens pelo mercado de arte e a proliferação de falsos artistas primitivos. Imagina suas obras expostas em lugares de freqüentação coletiva, para que pudessem ser vistas por todos. A arte deveria comunicar algo à coletividade, e estar presente em museus vivos e didáticos, voltados ao povo.
Following his substantial contribution to the theory and development of the neo-concrete group in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950s, the Brazilian art critic [José Ribamar] Ferreira Gullar (b. 1930) suggests a new way of seeing the relationship between the artist and society, between art and reality. With all due caution, given the censorship of the post-military coup period that began in 1965, Ferreira Gullar writes a regular column in Civilização Brasileira magazine, where he expresses his ideas through a new Marxist prism and interviews his favorite artists, in this case one of the pillars of what would later become the neo-concrete group.
Ivan [Ferreira] Serpa (1923–73) was a member of the Frente group—which included Lygia Clark, Abraham Palatnik, Hélio Oiticica, and Aluísio Carvão, among others—in Rio de Janeiro, expressing a type of geometrical abstraction in the mid-1950s. In 1947, at the urging of the art critic Mário Pedrosa (1900–81), he had joined the non-Figurative movement. In 1952 he started teaching painting classes for children at the MAM-Rio, which he would continue to do for the rest of his life. He showed his work at concrete art exhibitions in Rio, São Paulo, and Zurich, Switzerland, where he won a prize. In the early 1960s he produced some Figurative paintings—some of which were Expressionist works referred to as belonging to his “black period,” with deformed figures painted in greyish, dark colors—that reflected the political crisis that prompted the military coup on March 31, 1964. After 1965 Serpa once again started producing works of geometrical abstraction that included strange elements that expressed the sensuality of the form.
This interview addresses Serpa’s change of course and his disenchantment with concrete art. It also reveals his interest in social reality, which would be a dominant feature among the new generation of artists who identified with the emerging new figurations and with Pop Art.
In reference to this matter, see by Mário Pedrosa, “Serpa, mostra-despedida,” Jornal do Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, April 8, 1958; and “Grupo Frente,” introduction to the catalogue for the 2ª Mostra no MAM-Rio, July 1955.
Após a contribuição dada à arte neoconcreta, o crítico de arte Ferreira Gullar volta a pensar numa nova aproximação entre o artista e a sociedade, entre a arte e a realidade. Nesse sentido, escreve regularmente, a partir de 1965, na revista Civilização Brasileira, onde expõe suas idéias e realiza entrevistas com artistas. Ivan Serpa participou do grupo Frente e expôs ao lado dos artistas concretos. No início dos anos de 1960 volta a realizar pinturas figurativas, nas quais a figura humana aparece deformada em cores cinzas e escuras. Essa entrevista trata dessa mudança de rumo e do desencanto com a arte concreta. Ao mesmo tempo, revela aproximação à dimensão socialsões da realidade social, que se tornará dominante na nova geração de artistas, identificados às novas figurações e à arte pop.
c- A vanguarda nos anos 60: Mostras e Artistas