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In this article, Ferreira Gullar eulogizes his friend, the sculptor Franz Weissmann, “one of the reinventors of [Brazil’s] imagined universe.” He remembers meeting Weissmann at the home of Mário Pedrosa in 1952, and then living in the same building above a pottery shop in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro: “We became friends and our affectionate closeness lasted until the other day, when his heart stopped beating.”
Gullar describes the context of international aperture and cultural exchange that defined Brazilian art after the second World War, epitomized by the founding of the São Paulo Biennial. It was there that Weissmann, like many artists, encountered the work of Swiss painter and sculptor Max Bill, and “without much difficulty adhered to the new aesthetic, which he adopted without immediately disassociating himself from the previous language, in which figurative elements were mixed with geometric elements.” From there, Gullar writes, Weissmann developed an interest in space, “discovering increasingly economic and incisive rhythms to energize emptiness.” This economy of form expressed a spiritual intimacy with space, with which Weissmann enriched Brazilian sculpture, “adding a poetics of rigor and lightness, rigor and flight.”
The Austrian-Brazilian artist Franz Weissmann (1911–2005) emigrated to Brazil when he was eleven years old, studying at the Escola de Belas Artes in Rio de Janeiro. In the 1940s, he taught drawing and sculpture classes in Belo Horizonte, and was invited by the painter Alberto da Veiga Guignard (1896–1962) to teach at what would later be known as the Guignard School, the city’s first school of modern art. From the 1950s onwards (the first São Paulo Biennial was held in 1951), Weissmann gradually incorporated constructivist principles and geometrical forms into his work; he joined the Grupo Frente in 1955. The following year, as Gullar recalls, he returned to live in Rio de Janeiro and participated in the National Exhibition of Concrete Art in 1957. He was one of the founders, along with Gullar, of the Neoconcreto Group in 1959. After travels in Paris from 1961 to 1965, he returned to Rio de Janeiro. When he died at age 93, Weissmann was one of the last living members of the Neo-Concrete movement of the early 1960’s.
The critic [José Ribamar] Ferreira Gullar (1930–2016) was closely aligned with the founding of the Neo-Concrete group of artists, and, after publishing his essay “Theory of the Non-Object” in the Sunday Supplement of the Jornal do Brasil on Dec. 19-20, 1959, ultimately became the movement’s main theoretician.
[For more by Ferreira Gullar, see the following documents in the ICAA digital archive: “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); “Arte neoconcreta: uma experiência radical” (doc. no. 1315414); “Arte Concreta” (doc. no. 1315020); and “Da arte concreta à arte neoconcreta” (doc. no. 1315036), among others.
For more on Franz Weissmann, see by Ferreira Gullar “A nova forma de Weissmann” (doc. no. 1305868); by Mário Pedrosa “Grupo Frente” (doc. no. 1083731); by Casimiro Xavier de Mendonça “Espaco e cor: Licoes de Franz Weissmann por meio da geometria” (doc. no. 1306231); by Veloso Rui Rocha “Franz Weissmann” (doc. no. 1315684); by Ana Candida Vespucci “Franz Weissmann: tudo é valido” (doc. no. 1306756); by Frederico de Morais “Retrospectiva Franz Weissmann no IAB: A redescoberta permanente do espaco” (doc. no. 1306279); and by Roberto Pontual “Weissmann: Entro o plano e o espaco” (doc. no. 1306456)].