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    In this catalogue essay, curator Luciano Figueiredo discusses the gaps in Brazilian (and international) criticism addressing Hélio Oiticica’s major contributions to art. His Bólides and Parangolés, Figueiredo writes, represent a transformative moment not only formally but also politically, “celebrating the end of an old idea about art which is literally carried out by means of a joyful dance in homage to the new cultural phase.” But during his career – and especially from 1964 onwards – Brazilian art criticism “seldom analyzed the new paths paved by Hélio Oiticica,” leaving the artist himself to theorize his new proposals in conceptual texts.


    As such, Figueiredo’s essay gives way to reproductions of theoretical texts written by Oiticica in the early 1960s. In the first, from February 1961, Oiticica explains his transformation of painting into space as “its salvation,” a continuation of the innovations of constructivists such as Kandinsky, Malevich, Tatlin, and Mondrian. He writes, “the artist who aspires to a non-naturalistic, non-objective art, great abstraction, will find himself involved with the problem of the picture and will feel, consciously or not, the need for its destruction of its transformation.” He compares his spatial solution to painting with architecture, the incorporation of the picture into space and time. In subsequent essays, Oiticica expands on how his works relate to art historical precedents, and how they transform relationships between appearance and meaning, artist and materials, space and support.

    Hélio Oiticica (1937–80) studied painting with Ivan Serpa in 1954 at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro. He later joined the Grupo Frente and the Neo-Concrete movement. In addition to his geometric paintings, which he made while studying with Serpa, Oiticica produced performance and participatory art. His Parangolés (1964)—“habitable paintings”—are capes, flags, banners and tents made from layers of painted fabric, plastics, mats, screens, ropes and other materials. Representing the culmination of Oiticica’s experimentation with color as form and its relation to the environment, they were originally designed to be worn by the Mangueira Samba School, transforming its dancers into “color in motion.” As the notes at the end of this text conclude, “Oiticica went deeply into the collective soul in order to extract the individual body.”


    This exhibition catalogue accompanied the special exhibitions of Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark at the MAM-RJ, part of the 22nd Bienal de São Paulo in 1994. As the catalogue notes, the careers of both artists were “entirely linked to the MAM-RJ,” and serve as “the most significant representatives of the creativity and aggressiveness of Brazilian art.” Though Oiticica died suddenly in 1980, this exhibition marked renewed international attention and a series of retrospective exhibitions commemorating the artist’s short but multivalent career.


    [For complementary reading on this exhibition, see in the ICAA digital archive by Luciano Figueiredo “Lygia Clark” (doc. no. 1314953). For more on and by Hélio Oiticica, see “Parangolé: da anti-arte as apropriações ambientais de Oiticica” (doc. no. 1110631); “Tropicália” (doc. no. 1074985); “Aparecimento do suprasensorial na arte brasileira” (doc. no. 1110620); “Apocalipopótese” (doc. no. 1110682); “Arte Ambiental, arte pós-moderna, Helio Oiticica” (doc. no. 1110622); “Brasil diarréia” (doc. no. 1090409); “Côr, tempo e estrutura” (doc. no. 1110353); “Esquema geral da nova objetividade” (doc. no. 1110372); “A obra aberta” (doc. no. 1110619); and “Parangolé: da anti-arte as apropriações ambientais de Oiticica” (doc. no. 1110631), among many others; and by Lygia Pape “Fala, Hélio” (doc. no. 1111054)].