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Lygia Pape interviews Hélio Oiticica after he had returned from having lived for a period in New York. When asked about the term “Latin American art,” Oiticica says that he does not believe his work fits into that category, which he considers homogenized, restrictive, and vague. In his view, art from the region varies greatly and work by Brazilian artists is largely akin to North American and European production. Oiticica says that it is ironic that art galleries in Brazil continue to respect the parameters imposed by the support even though the limits between artistic categories (painting, sculpture, etc.) have been overcome. The art market in Brazil, Oiticica goes on to say, is a question of personal prestige and objects that are purchased that he deems worthless. He criticizes Conceptual art and texts about it on the walls of New York museums, saying, “I can’t stand the word ‘art’ next to the word ‘conceptual.’ It’s as unfortunate as anything I’ve seen emerge. The very idea of ‘concept’ was taken apart by Nietzsche long ago.” He and Pape discuss the works he made while in New York, among them the project Cosmococa ? program in progress, as well as his discovery of the urban space. Oiticica states that working in color once again—for instance in his new Bólides—does not constitute a return to color, but instead is “a discovery” of it. The artist explains that a videotape and a text with a technical description for the production of a model for Magic Square, a work to be included in the São Paulo Biennial, were confiscated. That work was characterized by silence and by the use of “white on white.”  

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Lygia Pape entrevista Hélio Oiticica após temporada vivida em Nova York. Questionado sobre o termo "arte latino-americana", Oiticica não vê seu trabalho incluído nesta categoria, que considera homogênea, restritiva e mesmo indeterminada. Para o artista, há diversidade na produção latino-americana e, segundo ele, a arte realizada pelos brasileiros se aproxima mais do pensamento de artistas norte-americanos ou europeus do que de artistas latinos. Oiticica fala, também, sobre a superação de categorias como pintura e escultura e sobre como as galerias no Brasil ainda se voltam para estes suportes. Neste país, o mercado de arte pauta-se muito pelo prestígio pessoal, e as vendas recaem sobre objetos que não têm valor. O artista critica a arte conceitual e os textos colocados nas paredes de exposições como as que viu em Nova York. Diz: "até o termo arte com conceitual não posso agüentar. Acho das coisas mais infelizes que apareceram. Quanto a idéia de conceito já foi desintegrada por Nietzsche". Também discute seus trabalhos realizados em Nova York, como os projetos de "Cosmococa - Programa in progress", bem como a descoberta do espaço urbano. Considera que trabalhar novamente com a cor não é uma retomada, mas uma "descoberta da cor", assim como a realização de novos "Bólides". O artista ainda relata a apreensão de um vídeo-taipe e um texto com a descrição técnica para a realização de um trabalho-maquete para a Bienal de São Paulo. O trabalho chamava-se "Magic Square" e se caracterizava pelo silêncio, pelo "branco sobre branco".

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As expressed in the manifesto of the Neo-Concrete movement issued in 1959, the tie between life and art was a sine qua non of the work of that movement’s most radical members, that is, Hélio Oiticica and the artists known as the two Lygias (Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape). For Oiticica, the passage from the observer’s “simple and structural,” that is passive participation to an active or “sensorial” role meant orienting art to daily life, guiding former viewers toward the exercise of freedom. In Cosmococas (1970–73), the artist’s joint projects with filmmaker Neville D’Almeida, Oiticica places emphasis on drugs. In his view, any attempt the individual makes to pursue his own form of expression should be considered “art.” That experimental undertaking and deep pursuit of knowledge produces in Oiticica’s view “the suprasensorial,” or that which lies beyond the senses (see Oiticica’s text “Aparecimento do suprasensorial na arte brasileira” [doc. no. 1110620]).  


Hélio Oiticica (1937–80) was a Brazilian Neo-Concrete artist. After studying painting with Ivan Serpa at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro in 1954, he joined the Grupo Frente and the Neo-Concrete movement. In addition to the geometric paintings he worked on while studying with Serpa and as a member of the Grupo Frente, Oiticica did performances and participatory works. His Parangolés (1964)—capes made with fabric and recycled materials—were used for performances at the Escuela de Samba Mangueira. Oiticica also created enveloping spaces like Nucleus (1959–60), an environment constructed with hanging and painted strips of wood based on Piet Mondrian’s Constructivist ideas. In 1967, he made the environment Tropicália at MAM-Rio. Tropicália was an installation of rooms with plants and materials (water, sand and stones, as well as a parrot, a television set, and other elements from Brazilian popular culture), that is, an environment designed to stimulate the senses. He applied the same principles for Eden, an environment made in 1969 at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The name “Tropicália” was later used by Brazilian musicians to refer to a new style of music that brought together international pop and traditional Brazilian music. The word, which came to form part of Brazilian popular culture, is applied to something Brazilian in nature. In 1970, Oiticica took part in the group show Information held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Artist Lygia Pape (1927–2004) skillfully worked in a number of areas: sculpture, printmaking (Livro-poema, 1960), dance (Ballet neoconcreto, 1960), and film (O guarda-chuva vermelho [The Red Umbrella, 1971]). She first studied art with Ivan Serpa in the Rio de Janeiro-based Grupo Frente (1955). Having participated in the Neo-Concrete movement from the time its manifesto was published in the Jornal do Brasil (March, 1959), Pape was an emblematic figure in that movement. She developed radical works and projects throughout the sixties—videos and installations that satirized the military dictatorship in power from 1964 to 1985—and into later decades as well. The metaphors in her work from the eighties—the decade of the somatic apologia—were more subtle, as her art became a vehicle for bodily and vital experiences of an existential, sensorial, and psychological nature. Geometry (the Concrete legacy) was what structured all of her later work. Her efforts always wavered between a highly intellectual approach and physical participation on the part of an active viewer. Her most striking works include Tecelares and the trilogy Livro da Criação/ Livro da Arquitetura / Livro do Tempo, and TtEias [Spider Web, 1979].


Hélio Oiticica analyzes Lygia Pape’s artistic development, which in his view, begins to venture into space starting with her Livro da Criação, produced in 1960 [doc. no. 1110628].


In “Lygia Pape: a radicalidade do real” [doc. no. 1111257], art critic Márcio Doctors, who considers Pape the most radical of all the Neo-Concrete artists (including Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica), observes that her work empties out the borders between “the inside ” and “the outside.” 

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a- Interpretações da produção artística

j- Exilio

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Equipe Brasil: Daria Jaremtchuk
FAPESP, Sao Paulo, Brazil
From Lygia Pape and Hélio Oiticica.
© César e Claudio Oiticica
Biblioteca da Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas - FFLCH/USP