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In this pocket-sized catalogue for an exhibition of recipients of the Leirner Prize for Contemporary Art in 1958, José Geraldo Vieira describes Anatol Wladyslaw’s work as “the painting of decomposition.” Having worked as an engineer, Wladyslaw’s early works took a graphic, rational approach to line, form, movement, and rhythm; his titles are a case in point: Composition with Dominant Diagonals (1953); Composition (1954); Movement, Circles, Ellipses (1956). Wladyslaw’s distilled geometry eventually gave way to an interest in organic elements, and “voids” became “matter.” These “landscapes,” Vieira stipulates, are not romantic perspectives but “transverse cuts in the earth, extracting clots and nerves, all the potential of the old age of the world. His painting is a cosmograph, with maps of regions still unnamed.”
Anatol Wladyslaw (1913–2004) was born in Warsaw and arrived in São Paulo in 1930, where he trained as an engineer. Though he began studying painting with Lucy Citti Ferreira and Yolanda Mohaly in the late 1930s, the biography in this catalogue notes that he considered himself self-taught. He frequented Samson Flexor’s Atelier Abstração, a studio that taught the principles of abstraction, held recitals and conferences, and served as a hub for artists and intellectuals. He also joined the Grupo Ruptura, the group of Paulista concretists formed by Waldemar Cordeiro, Luiz Sacilotto, Kazmer Féjer, Lothar Charoux, Hermelindo Fiaminghi, and Mauricio Nogueira Lima. However, he refused to identify any school of thought with his work, and in the mid-1950s, as Vieira notes, greater lyricism and informalism were evident in his abstract painting; he adopted tachism in 1959.
The strong pictorial gesture in Wladyslaw might suggest a reason for this honorary exhibition at the Galeria de Arte das Folhas. When a year 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 an exhibition of Paulo Rissone and a retrospective of Samson Flexor, fellow recipients of the Leirner Prize for Contemporary Art in 1958.
[For more on the Prêmio Leirner de Arte Contemporânea, see the following documents in the ICAA digital archive: 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).
For complementary reading on the Grupo Ruptura, see by Ferreira Gullar “I - O Grupo de São Paulo: I Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta” (doc. no. 1087166); by Lothar Charoux “Ruptura” (doc. no. 771349), and “Manifesto Ruptura” (doc. no. 1232213); and by Sérgio Milliet “Duas exposições” (doc. no. 1085432)].