Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

These documents are the invitation to and the program of the Third Exhibition of the Atelier-Abstração, held in São Paulo in June 1956. The Atelier-Abstração was a studio set up by the Brazilian artist Samson Flexor in his own house, and to which he invited young artists to study drawing and painting. A group of dynamic and productive artists soon formed around the Atelier-Abstração, among them Izar do Amaral Berlinck, Zilda Andrews, Emílio Mallet, Leopoldo Raimo, Jacques Douchez, Maria Antonia Berlinck, Leyla Perrone, Norberto Nicola, Wega Nery, Anésia Pacheco Chaves, Alberto Teixeira, and Nelson Leirner. The group held its first exhibition in 1953. By the time of their third exhibition in 1956, the group had also been able to exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo. The Atelier-Abstração group disbanded in 1958.

The program includes a brief statement from Flexor about the aims of the Atelier-Abstração group. In his text, the artist advocates the autonomy of abstract painting, pleading its independence from the outside world. Flexor stated, "An abstract painting does not represent but presents itself / An abstract painting does not express but expresses itself / An abstract painting is already a presence in itself and its only significance is itself." According to Flexor, painting no longer belongs to the imitative arts but has a place next to music and architecture. “These are major arts by excellence,” he added, their main essence coming from invention and sensibility, both privileges of mankind.

Annotations

Settling in São Paulo at the end of 1948, after a long period of training in Brussels and Paris, Samson Flexor (1907–1971) found the artistic atmosphere in the city marked by debates on abstract art. The exhibition of Max Bill (1908–1994) at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand and the presence of the Swiss delegation at the 1st Bienal Internacional de São Paulo, both in 1951, opened the country to new Constructivist tendencies that were widely explored from then onwards.

 

In this atmosphere, Flexor formed the Atelier-Abstração, which became one of the most important places for artistic training in São Paulo during the 1950s. Flexor’s idea was to "create a space to develop a calculated ordering of shapes and colors." Students were required to draw a guitar using a ruler and a square, forcing them to break up the object into geometric planes and, consequently, making them see the object in its fundamental forms. Flexor stressed this idea further by having students draw in perspective on graph paper. Once these concepts were grasped, the pupils could move on to colors, progressing from warm to cool tones.

 

The Third Exhibition of the Atelier-Abstração has been claimed to be one of the most representative expressions of the Atelier’s instruction: the search for equilibrium between geometric forms; an attempt to impose rhythm and movement on the composition; the development of a chromatic sensibility; and the search for the structural unity of the work.

Researcher
Nora Nava-Heymann
Team
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
Credit
The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art, museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund
Location
Adolpho Leirner Archives at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston