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    Synopsis

    Frederico Morais summarizes this essay with the title, “Concretism/Neoconcretism: Who it is, who it is not, who adhered, who preceded, who touched on it, who remained, left, returned: did concretism ever exist?” In it, he complicates the simplified narratives of a coherent movement – of doctrinaire constructivism and the critical schism between Concretism and Neoconcretism – by asking, “What is there in common between Ivan Serpa and Willys de Castro, between Sacilotto and Hélio Oiticica?” He discusses the work of artists such as Rubem Valentim, Maria Leontina, Ubi Bava, and others who flirted with the principles of the movement without “signing the manifestoes.” He quotes Valentim, for example, who said, “even though I did not participate in Concretism, I realized its values, the idea of ??structure, suited the semiotic character of my plastic inquiry. I've always been intuitive or instinctive. But at the same time, I can say that I have always been a constructivist.”

     

    Morais concludes, “It is not easy, therefore, to say precisely who was concrete, who was not.” The “grammar” of Concretism was so influential in Brazil that it penetrated graphic design, books, magazines, newspapers, furniture, and shop windows. In fact, it exerted a kind of “pressure” even on artists that did not affiliate themselves with the movement; Morais paraphrases Tarsila do Amaral, who said that in Brazil, Concretism was, for many, a kind of compulsory military service. Milton Dacosta echoed the discipline it enforced, confessing, “I painted like a housewife who always wants to keep her house tidy.” Morais understands Concretism as a local “manifestation of a more general and universal tendency, which is constructive art.” It thus took many forms in Brazil, even when the artists themselves did not explicitly adopt it.

    Annotations

    The critic Frederico [de] Morais (b. 1936) wrote for many years for the Rio de Janeiro newspapers Diário de Notícias and O Globo. An active “committed” critic, curator, and professor in the 1960s and 1970s, he supported various avant-garde movements during that period. As the director of the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro (1967–73), he was responsible for course programming, and continued to lecture at several universities, including the Faculdade de Arquitetura at the PUC-RJ. He has published 36 books on Brazilian and Latin American art and has curated exhibitions in Brazil and elsewhere, including the retrospective Vanguarda Brasileira (Belo Horizonte, 1966) and the Iª Bienal de Artes Visuais do Mercosul (Porto Alegre, 1989).

     

    This text appears in the catalogue Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte, which accompanied a major exhibition organized in São Paulo by Aracy Amaral (b. 1930) and by Lygia Pape (1927–2004). It 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 the following texts in the ICAA digital archive: by Ferreira Gullar “Arte Concreta” (doc. no. 1315020), “Da arte concreta à arte neoconcreta” (doc. no. 1315036), “Arte neoconcreta, uma contribuição brasileira” (doc. no. 1315052), “Concretos de São Paulo no MAM” (doc. no. 1315102), and “Resposta a Cordeiro” (doc. no. 1315118); 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 Frederico Morais, see his essays “Escultura, objeto e participação” (doc. no. 1111085); “O desenho industrial e a realidade brasileira” (doc. no. 1110472); “Revisão do método crítico” (doc. no. 1110473); “Arte reprimida em São Paulo” (doc. no. 1110638); “Manifesto Do Corpo à Terra” (doc. no. 1110794); “Da crítica como produtora de teorias à socialização da atividade crítica” (doc. no. 777169); “Introdução: resistir ou libertar?” (doc. no. 1061858); “Contra a arte culta. A liderança dos ‘velhos’. O público de volta” (doc. no. 1110553); and “Vanguarda, o que é” (doc. no. 1110377), among many others].