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In this essay, for the catalogue and landmark exhibition Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte, Roberto Pontual considers the afterlives of Neoconcretism, a movement that only “officially” existed for “a little over two years, between March 1959 and May 1961.” He discusses the formal concerns of Neoconcrete art—such as Lygia Clark’s interest in space and three-dimensionality and the “environmental integration” of Hélio Oiticica’s works—and the political conditions that characterized its cultural sphere, citing Ferreira Gullar’s conclusion that “Neoconcretism did not contain the solution to the crisis: it was an expression of it; but an autonomous expression.”
Though the Concrete group in São Paulo remained largely intact, Pontual writes that the Neoconcretists dispersed after their final exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo in 1961. Though Neoconcretism anticipated many of the subsequent experiments with figuration (such as pop art) in the 1960s, he describes the early part of the decade as a “hibernatory period” from which the movement would reemerge at the 1967 exhibition Nova Objetividade Brasileira. In the late 1960s, Neoconcretism would find new voice in “public art, art in the streets, the dilution of art into everyday life, and—most importantly—within the framework of the establishment of conceptual art as an internationally disseminated language.” He discusses a later generation of artists who expanded the proposals of Neoconcretism in this context, such as Georgete Melhem, Sergio Augusto Porto and Odila Ferraz, Pedro Escoteguy, and Rubens Gerchman. Even contemporary art, he concludes, contains “clear structural links with the neo-concrete spirit, without [younger artists] having lived through or known Neoconcretism directly from the 1950s on.”
Roberto [Gonçalves] Pontual (1939–94) was a poet and one of the most prominent and active critics in the Rio de Janeiro art world in the 1970s. A curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro (MAM-RJ) between 1974–1978, he curated several important exhibitions, including Do mundo, a América Latina. Entre as geometrias, a sensível. A champion of the so-called “Geração ’80,” he is the author of Explode Geração! [see in the ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1110991)] and América Latina, geometria sensível (see doc. no. 771399). This text appears 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). 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.
[For complementary reading from this exhibition, see the following texts in the ICAA digital archive: by Aracy Amaral “Concretos em São Paulo/Neoconcretos no Rio” (doc. no. 1315176); by Lygia Pape “Projeto construtivo brasileiro na arte” (doc. no. 1110680); 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), and “Resposta a Cordeiro” (doc. no. 1315118); 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 Roberto Pontual, see “Corpos de afago e dor” (doc. no. 1111211); “Crise da crise? A resposta também pode ser nossa” (doc. no. 1110986); “Os dois Brasis” (doc. no. 1110617); “Expor: impor ou propor?” (doc. no. 1110954); “Imagens da imagem” (doc. no. 1110688); “A natureza reposta em arte” (doc. no. 1111359); “Notas sôbre a xilogravura popular brasileira” (doc. no. 1111031); “Um panorama brasileiro” (doc. no. 1110604); “O quase mago Roberto Magalhães” (doc. no. 1111080); “Sistema de arte em questão: o que fazer?” (doc. no. 1111082); “Valtércio Caldas: luz e enigma” (doc. no. 1110563); and “Em torno do sistema da arte” (doc. no. 1110554)].