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In this essay, Ferreira Gullar criticizes an exhibition of concrete artists from São Paulo at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. He takes issue with Waldemar Cordeiro’s text, which accompanied the exhibition, and its claims that the “content” of concrete art is “objectivity.” Gullar argues that objectivity is a “behavior,” not content, and that to call it content is “a conservative and comfortable position. Perhaps the problem with these artists lies in finding content for their objectivity.”
For Gullar, the “submission” of the São Paulo artists to dogmatic notions of objectivity restricts their ability to generate meaning and address “the fundamental problems of modern visual language.” He reviews the developments of some artists, such as Mauricio Nogueira Lima, Judith Lauand, and Cordeiro, though he concludes that “today, as yesterday, the Paulistas continue from concepts and not from experiences.” This emphasis on experience—which defined the Neoconcrete position articulated elsewhere by Gullar—would achieve “independence of expression” and help artists move on from “critical objectivity” to “creative objectivity.” “As for orthodox concretism,” he concludes, “it is dead and buried. Let the Paulistas be convinced of this.”
As is clear from this essay, the critic [José Ribamar] Ferreira Gullar (1930–2016) was closely aligned with the founding of the Neoconcrete group of artists in Rio de Janeiro. After publishing his essay “Theory of the Non-Object” in the Sunday Supplement of the Jornal do Brasil on December 19-20, 1959, he became the movement’s main theoretician.
This polemical text is indicative of the aesthetic debates that pitted the Concrete artists of São Paulo against their Neoconcrete counterparts in Rio de Janeiro. It was originally published in the Rio de Janeiro newspaper Jornal do Brasil on July 16, 1960. It is reproduced in the catalogue Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte, which accompanied an exhibition organized in São Paulo by Aracy Amaral (b. 1930) and by Lygia Pape (1927–2004). The exhibition had a great impact in Brazil, and it led to a new reading of the meaning of the rationalist movements in the nation’s art. In 1977, the show was presented at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, and later at the MAM-RJ (Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro).
[For complementary reading from this exhibition, see in the ICAA digital archive by Lygia Pape “Projeto construtivo brasileiro na arte” (doc. no. 1110680); by Jorge Romero Brest “A arquitetura é a grande arte de nosso tempo—1948: Romero Brest em São Paulo” (doc. no. 1314972); and by Tomás Maldonado “O problema da educação artística depois da Bauhaus” (doc. no. 1315069).
For more by Ferreira Gullar, see “Resposta a Cordeiro” (doc. no. 1315118); “Arte Concreta” (doc. no. 1315020); “Da arte concreta à arte neoconcreta” (doc. no. 1315036); “Arte neoconcreta, uma contribuição brasileira” (doc. no. 1315052); “Manifesto Neoconcreto” (doc. no. 1110328); “Do quadro ao não-objeto” (doc. no. 1091272); “Cor e estrutura-cor” (doc. no. 1091219); “A poesia neoconcreta” (doc. no. 1315256); and “Arte neoconcreta: uma experiência radical” (doc. no. 1315414), among others].