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In this essay—published in the pocket-sized catalogue for an exhibition of Clélia Cotrim Alves, Renina Katz, Francisco Brennand, and Leopoldo Raimo—Clarivaldo Valladares begins by writing that he only met Clélia Cotrim Alves “a few hours ago,” and only first saw her sculptures “a few minutes ago.” His essay thus consists of “commentary-emotion,” or impressionistic thoughts on the difference between the “physical object” and the “plastic object.” Cotrim Alves, he writes, constructs forms that give us “time exclusive of substance,” or time that won’t submit to the register. Even as the work “retains in space the moment of its presence and perception,” it also changes as the viewer moves—“a new retinal impact happens and one more and another and so it becomes unlimited, infinite.” In this sense, the physical object is bound in time and space, while the plastic object “continues to exist in ourselves, beyond the retinal plane.”
For Valladares, the “eternal” quality of time and space also emerges from the materiality of Cotrim Alves’s surfaces. Unlike the “neutralized surface of Vantongerloo” or the “form and rhythm” of Max Bill, her sculptures bear an “invented texture” that is both ancient and “remote” while also of the future, “like predictions of astrologers.” He describes her work as “rich,” “generous,” and “strong because they resist the question of where they begin or end.”
The little-known sculptor Clélia Cotrim Alves (b. 1921), was based in São Paulo. She participated in the landmark Salão Paulista de Arte Moderna in 1958 and 1960, the Salão de Arte Contemporânea de Santo André in 1969, and the Salão de Artes Plásticas da Noroeste in 1978. She contributed two bronze works to the V Bienal Internacional de São Paulo in 1959 and, also that year, won the Prêmio Leirner de Arte Contemporânea, for which this exhibition was held. In later decades she participated in several group exhibitions, including Mulher às Artes Plásticas no País (1960), Panorama de Arte Atual Brasileira (1972, 1975, and 1978), and Escultura Brasileira no Espaço Urbano: 50 anos (1978).
The art historian, critic, and poet Clarival do Prado Valladares (1918–83) trained as a physician at the Universidade Federal da Bahia, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1950s, though he simultaneously lectured at the Escola de Belas Artes in Bahia. Moving to Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s, he published several texts on art and contributed to the Jornal do Brasil and the magazine GAM: Galeria de Arte Moderna. He served on juries for the Bienal Internacional de São Paulo in 1967, 1973, and 1977; the I Bienal Nacional de Artes Plásticas in 1966; the III Bienal Interamericana de Arte in Córdoba, Argentina; and the Panorama de Arte Atual Brasileira at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, among other events. In the 1970–80s, he published several books, including Rio Barroco, Rio Neoclássico, Arte e Sociedade nos Cemitérios Brasileiros, and Aspectos da Arte Religiosa no Brasil.
Valladares contributed this introductory essay to an exhibition of recipients of the Prêmio Leirner de Arte Contemporânea at the Galeria de Arte das Folhas in October 1959. The São Paulo gallery was founded when, two years earlier, art patrons of São Paulo felt that important figurative artists had been excluded from the Concrete-focused biennial. The industrialist Isaí Leirner (who, at the time, was director of the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo) sponsored an alternative exhibition of 12 São Paulo-based artists. This initial exhibition, which became known as the Premio Leirner, was held in the lobby of the office building of the newspaper La Folha. Leirner eventually founded a space dedicated to this cause, known as the Galeria de Arte das Folhas, which operated from 1958–62 and hosted not only exhibitions but also debates and conferences that promoted a wider array of tendencies than those backed by the organizers of the São Paulo Bienal. Leirner and the other patrons who coalesced around the Galeria Folha often bought the exhibited art themselves and donated it to museums, thus driving the institutionalization of the showcased artists. In its four years of operation, the gallery exhibited many emerging talents, including Franz Weissmann, Regina Silveira, Maria Helena Andrés, Mário Silésio, Di Cavalcanti, Willys de Castro, and Hermelindo Fiaminghi. This catalogue also accompanied an exhibition of Renina Katz, Francisco Brennand and Leopoldo Raimo, fellow recipients of the Leirner Prize for Contemporary Art in 1959.
[For more on Clélia Cotrim Alves, see in the ICAA digital archive her essay “O meu trabalho...” (doc. no. 1317154).
For complementary reading, see by Wolfgang Pfeiffer et. al. “Leopoldo Raimo” (doc. no. 1316907); by Oswald de Andrade Filho “Prêmio Leirner de Arte Contemporânea, 1960” (doc. no. 1232976), and “Murilo Penteado” (doc. no. 1309128); by Luis Martins “Samson Flexor” (doc. no. 1316704); by Geraldo Ferraz “Paulo Rissone” (doc. no. 1322939); by Wolfgang Pfeiffer “Moacyr Rocha” (doc. no. 1309168), and “Niobe Xandó” (doc. no. 1309188); and by Décio Pignatari “Raul Porto” (doc. no. 1309108)].