Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    In this short essay, in the pocket-sized catalogue produced for the 1960 Leirner Prize for Contemporary Art, Oswald de Andrade Filho describes the lyrical, abstract landscapes of the painter Murilo Penteado. “He does not paint what he sees,” Andrade Filho writes, “he looks inward to an interior landscape.” In Penteado’s paintings, indistinct shapes and symbols emerge and recede as if in a dream, reflecting reality but not occupying material space. His pointillist technique adds to the elusivity of color, light, and line, creating an “eternal” dreamspace. Andrade Filho compares this mysterious dimension to the bottom of the sea, “where the soul wanders restlessly among dreams, longings, and lights.” He invites viewers to wander thus through Penteado’s “infinite world.”

    This document is part of The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

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    Oswald de Andrade Filho (1914–72), the son of poet Oswald de Andrade, was a painter, writer, musician, and professor of art. Raised in the modernist circles of his well-known father, Andrade Filho studied painting under Candido Portinari, Anita Malfatti, and Lasar Segall. In the 1930s, he participated in the activities of the Clube dos Artistas Modernos and Flávio de Carvalho’s Teatro da Experiência. In the 1950s, he joined the Grupo Guanabara, along with the painters Manabu Mabe (1924-1997) and Tikashi Fukushima (1920-2001). Andrade Filho also edited the journal A Gazeta and wrote children’s books. He contributed to this small exhibition of five artists recognized by the Leirner Prize for Contemporary Art along with Waldemar Cordeiro (1925–73), Wolfgang Pfeiffer (1912–2003), and Decio Pignatari (1927–2012). The document includes a short biography of the artist and a checklist of his works shown in the exhibition.

     

     

    When, in 1957, art patrons of São Paulo felt that important figurative artists had been excluded from the Concrete-focused biennial, the industrialist Isaí Leirner (who, at the time, was director of the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo) sponsored an alternative exhibition of 12 São Paulo-based artists. This initial exhibition, which became known as the Premio Leirner, was held in the lobby of the office building of the newspaper La Folha. Leirner eventually founded a space dedicated to this cause, known as the Galeria de Arte das Folhas, which operated from 1958–62 and hosted not only exhibitions but also debates and conferences that promoted a wider array of tendencies than those backed by the organizers of the São Paulo Bienal. Leirner and the other patrons who coalesced around the Galeria Folha often bought the exhibited art themselves and donated it to museums, thus driving the institutionalization of the showcased artists. In its four years of operation, the gallery exhibited many emerging talents, including Franz Weissmann, Regina Silveira, Maria Helena Andrés, Mário Silésio, Di Cavalcanti, Willys de Castro, and Hermelindo Fiaminghi.

     

    Murilo Penteado’s paintings exemplify the founding purpose of the Leirner Prize: to recognize the work of figurative artists who did not attract the attention of biennial organizers interested in Concrete styles. Penteado, a little-known artist who was born in São Paulo and trained in Paris, participated in the Salão Paulista de Belas Artes in 1949 and in the National Salon.

     

    [For complementary reading on Oswald de Andrade Filho, see “Quando ouço falar em cultura, puxo o meu revolver” (doc. no. 1110460); “O outro cavalo de Troia,” by Lourival Gomes Machado (doc. no. 1110724); and “Pignatari: Vanguarda e Raul Porto,” by Décio Pignatari (doc. no. 1233071) in the ICAA digital archive.

     

    For the entire catalogue, see “Prêmio Leirner de Arte Contemporânea, 1960” (doc. no. 1232976)].