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This text, in the pocket-sized catalogue for an exhibition of recipients of the Leirner Prize for Contemporary Art in 1960, reproduces an excerpt of Antônio Henrique Amaral’s “diary.” In it, the artist asks fundamental questions about the role of art and artists in a world full of “wars, scientific discoveries, abrupt changes.” “Should man give up the possibility of integration into the new, strange, and difficult reality?” he asks. Should the artist acquiesce to a life of chaos and conformism or should he “search for a new synthesis, a new integration, a new harmony?” Amaral concludes that art cannot simply express the time in which it is produced: “It has to be more than that.”
Though his biography claims he began as a self-taught artist, Antônio Henrique Amaral (1935–2015) began studying under Roberto Sambonet at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art in 1952. In 1957, he joined the Museum’s Escola de Artesanato to train in woodcuts and linocuts with Lívio Abramo. He first solo exhibition was in 1958, showing a group of engravings at the Museum; also that year, according to this document, he traveled to Argentina and Chile for exhibitions. He was invited to exhibit at the Panamerican Union in Washington, D.C. in 1959, and while in the United States he enrolled at the Pratt Institute in New York City to study printmaking with Shiko Munakata and W. Rogalsky. After the 1964 coup, Amaral switched from printmaking to painting, and became well known for a series of paintings made between 1968–75 that made use of squashed and cut bananas to reference Brazil’s military dictatorship.
The somewhat figural style evident in this catalogue suggests that Amaral’s draftsmanship aligned with the aims of the Galeria de Arte das Folhas. When a few years earlier, in 1957, 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 exhibitions of Anatol Wladyslaw, Italo Cencini, Mário Zanini, and Edith Jiménez, fellow recipients of the Leirner Prize for Contemporary Art in 1960. It reproduces one of Amaral’s drawings, the excerpt from the “Diary of the Artist,” a biography, list of individual and group exhibitions, and a checklist of works shown: “15 drawings.”
[For more on Antônio Henrique Amaral, see the following documents in the ICAA digital archive: by Antônio Henrique Amaral “Depoimento gravado especialmente para o acervo da Galeria de Arte Alberto Bonfiglioli” (doc. no. 1111039), “Letter [to] Ferreira Gullar” (doc. no. 1111048), and “Letter [to] Vilém Flusser” (doc. no. 1111047); by Vilém Flusser “Campos de batalha: tornar visível o invisível - mudar nossa maneira de viver” (doc. no. 1111050); by Ferreira Gullar “O meu e o seu de A. H. Amaral” (doc. no. 1111189); by Olívio Tavares de Araújo “Antônio Henrique em alto mar” (doc. no. 1111202); and by Stella Teixeira de Barros “‘Out’-arte?” (doc. no. 1110669).
For more on the Prêmio Leirner de Arte Contemporânea, see by Oswald de Andrade Filho “Prêmio Leirner de Arte Contemporânea, 1960” (doc. no. 1232976), and “Murilo Penteado” (doc. no. 1309128); by Lívio Abramo “Edith Jiménez” (doc. no. 1317347); by Benedito Peretto “Mário Zanini” (doc. no. 1317331); by Gerardo Ferraz “Anatol Wladyslaw” (doc. no. 1317311), and “Paulo Rissone” (doc. no. 1322939); by Ariano Suassuna “Francisco Brennand” (doc. no. 1317203); by Wolfgang Pfeiffer et. al. “Leopoldo Raimo” (doc. no. 1316907); by Cláudio Abramo “Renina Katz” (doc. no. 1317183); by Clarival do Prado Valladares “Clélia Cotrim Alves” (doc. no. 1317124); by Luis Martins “Samson Flexor” (doc. no. 1316704); by Wolfgang Pfeiffer “Moacyr Rocha” (doc. no. 1309168), and “Niobe Xandó” (doc. no. 1309188); and by Décio Pignatari “Raul Porto” (doc. no. 1309108)].