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    Synopsis

    In this essay, Ronaldo Brito analyses Brazilian Constructive art as part of an “organized cultural strategy” in the 1940s–60s that was inseparable from “the question of the social and cultural development of the country.” He raises issues such as the decolonial promise and nationalist limitations of Constructivism, Concretism’s “naive and ultimately capitalist belief in technology itself,” and Neoconcretism’s political opacity. For Brito, Neoconcretism represents both the apex of the Constructive tradition—its “most sophisticated elements”—and “the implicit consciousness of the impossibility of these elements as a project of the Brazilian cultural vanguard.” He summarizes, “to a large extent: Concretism would be the dogmatic phase and Neoconcretism the phase of rupture, Concretism the phase of implantation and Neoconcretism the shocks of local adaptation.”

     

    Brito’s analysis of Neoconcretism focuses primarily on its humanist stance, as opposed to “Concretist empiricism”—an approach that sought to transform the artwork, though it remained “practically apolitical, kept on the reserved ground, was timid and distrustful” of involvement with practical functions such as industrial (graphic) production. This, Brito argues, was because Neoconcrete artists were upper-middle class and somewhat “detached from market pressures,” unlike concrete artists who worked as advertisers and designers; though circumstantial, this difference was significant in that it limited the “constructive vanguard group located in Rio de Janeiro, [from] exercising its constructive postulates in a wider social area.” Though Concretism seems to have better understood the potential for the social function of art, neither did it push its proposals toward a radical end; ignoring the semiotic operations it mobilized.

    Annotations

    Ronaldo [Correia de] Brito (b. 1951) is an influential Brazilian critic whose essays have been published in books, magazines, and exhibition catalogues. A contributor to the newspaper Opinião and a founder of the magazines Malasartes and Gávea [see in the ICAA digital archive “Malasartes, um depoimento pessoal” (doc. no. 1111305)], he was a leading figure in the reevaluation of the Constructive art movements and their legacy in contemporary Brazilian art. This essay appears in the text Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte, which accompanied an 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 Frederico Morais Concretismo/Neoconcretismo” (doc. no. 1315134); 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 PapeProjeto 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 Ronaldo Brito, see “Neoconcretismo” (doc. no. 1091308); “Análise do circuito” (doc. no. 1111095); “O desequilibrista” (doc. no. 1110616); “Leitura crítica do real” (doc. no. 1110555); “Trágico moderno” (doc. no. 1110423); and “O boom, o pós-boom e o dis-boom (doc. no. 1110451), among others].