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    Synopsis

    In this article the Venezuelan curator, professor, and art critic Mónica Amor explains that the Brazilian poet Ferreira Gullar’s theoretical contribution was instrumental in the development of the Brazilian avant-garde. According to Amor, Gullar’s essay “Teoria do Não-Objeto” [Theory of the Non-Object] (1959), which broke in no uncertain terms with the modernist emphasis in pictorial identity, is essential reading that sheds light on the experiments with space and the viewer that were being conducted by the neo-concrete Brazilian artists Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark between 1959 and 1964. Amor lists the main points that Gullar expressed in “Teoria…” and in the subsequent Diálogo sobre o Não-Objeto” [Dialogue on the Non-Object] (1960). Amor claims that Clark’s and Oiticica’s work has largely been evaluated in terms of the involvement of the viewer and the reclaiming of subjectivity; but the most important thing they did during this period was to challenge the classic structure of art production, driven by their interest in the emotional aspect of art. She argues that Gullar’s theoretical contributions and the intense artistic dialogue between Clark and Oiticica during that period opened new avenues for aesthetic study that profoundly altered the status of the artistic object and the subject matter and its reception. Amor provides a detailed review of the artistic dialogue between Clark and Oiticica at that time to illustrate her point.  

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    The Venezuelan curator, professor, and art critic Mónica Amor explains that the theoretical contribution made by the Brazilian poet Ferreira Gullar (José Ribamar Ferreira, b. São Luís, Maranhão, 1930; d. Rio de Janeiro, 2016) was instrumental in the development of the Brazilian avant-garde. According to Amor, Gullar’s essay “Teoria do Não-Objeto” [Theory of the Non-Object] (1959), which broke in no uncertain terms with the modernist emphasis in pictorial identity, is essential reading that sheds light on the experiments with space and the viewer that were being conducted by the neo-concrete Brazilian artists Hélio Oiticica (b. Rio de Janeiro, 1937; d. Rio de Janeiro, 1980) and Lygia Clark (b. Belo Horizonte, 1920; d. Rio de Janeiro, 1988) between 1959 and 1964. Amor claims that Clark’s and Oiticica’s work has largely been evaluated in terms of the involvement of the viewer and the reclaiming of subjectivity; but the most important thing they did during this period was to challenge the classic structure of art production. She argues that Gullar’s theoretical contributions and the intense artistic dialogue between Clark and Oiticica during that period opened new avenues for aesthetic study that profoundly altered the status of the artistic object and the subject matter and its reception. Amor explains that, in his essays “Teoria…” and the subsequent “Diálogo sobre o Não-Objeto” [Dialogue on the Non-Object] (1960), Gullar proposed rejecting the frame and the obligatory relationship with real space as models for an expression of daily life. Gullar described the Non-Object as a “primary formulation” or a “presentation” instead of a “representation.” He also rejected the functionality of the object in favor of the indeterminate nature of the Non-Object and insisted that the background of the Non-Object was real space, not the metaphorical field of abstract art, which in his opinion still operated on the principle of representation.

     

    Amor then provides a detailed review of the artistic dialogue that Clark and Oiticica initiated in 1957 with the Metaesquemas and Planos em Superfície Modulada series, respectively. In these works Oiticica sought to destabilize concrete painting’s spatial conventions, and Clark exposed the support for the farce it was. In 1959 and 1960 Clark and Oiticica attempted to go beyond the pictorial plane by systematically attacking it; they also tried to include a “temporary” and “spatial” quality in the pictorial structure in order to prompt an emotional response to the work. The deconstruction of the pictorial support was achieved in Clark’s case by rejecting the use of a frame, and in Oiticica’s by his configuration of canvases. Amor explains that the dialogue between Clark and Oiticica and their common use of the fold placed the viewer at the intersection of real space and representational space. She argues that with their embrace of time and space, release from the traditional support, and acceptance of Gullar’s Non-Object, Clark and Oiticica pushed painting to the brink of collapse. The next step these artists took was to disrupt the autonomy and identification between the subject and the object being represented, as Clark did with her Bichos (1960–64) and Oiticica did with his Bólides (1963–64). Amor reports that these projects steered Clark away from objects and led her to concentrate on the act itself and create her “propositions,” which were actions in which precarious objects influenced events that explored the somatic and psychic aspects of the subject. Amor concludes that, in their challenge to traditional representation, Clark and Oiticica undermined subjective aesthetic projections and the principle of certainty and, as a result, repositioned the subject of production and reception.