Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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In this catalogue essay, Adolpho Leirner writes about his impassioned motives for collecting as well as the first acquisition of his collection, Em vermelho [In Red], 1958, by Milton Dacosta. He states that his experience as a textile engineer “decisively contributed to and informed [his] way of looking and [his] perceptions.” Although he was familiar with the well-known Brazilian artists of the past, his primary interest was to collect works from contemporary artists, which he found to be more challenging and stimulating.

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Published on the occasion of Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection, on view May–September, 2007, this exhibition catalogue essay written by Adolpho Leirner (b. 1935), recounts the origins of his collection. Leirner’s interest in collecting derived from his attraction to architecture and design, from where his interest led him to “Russian Constructivists, the Dutch movement of De Stijl, to the German Bauhaus, to the French Art Deco, to the schools of Vienna and Glasgow.” These movements inevitably drew him to the use of “lines, color, forms, planes, and tensions – the dominance of order over disorder,” which brought him “closer to rational thought.”

 

In the early 1960’s, Leirner noticed that less attention was being given to the artists who were working outside of the “lyrical and informal abstraction” of the time. He decided to focus on the artists who “participated in abstract-geomantic movements and who were “out-moded”.” Well-versed in the European movements of the time, in 1974 Leirner organized an exhibition which would function as the counterpoint to Germany’s great Bauhaus exhibition, Tempo dos Modernistas, and was the first time International Art Deco and Brazilian Art Deco was presented in Brazil. 

 

Leirner discusses the sometimes complicated relationship between collectors and artists, from where he explains many of the important personal connections he’s developed with the artists in his collection. He concludes by saying that he has no intention of claiming Brazilian Constructive Art as the most important Brazilian art movement of the 20th century, but that “[his] intent is to show this trend as being very much alive and current, as well as significantly influential on the development of this country’s art milieu.”

 

Leirner’s essay is important because it illustrates his relationship with collecting and his intentions as a collector. [See in ICAA digital archive, the texts: “Foreword” by Peter C. Marzio (doc. no. 1324404) and “Fitting Pieces Out of Place?” by Mari Carmen Ramírez (doc. no. 1324424) regarding the exhibition catalogue Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection]

 

Adolpho Leirner (b. 1935), is the son of Polish Jewish immigrants who arrived in Brazil in the 1930’s. In 1953 he traveled to England to study textile engineering and design. He developed a passion for architecture and design but also acquainted himself with the legacy of the international Constructivist movements of the first half of the 20th century. He returned to Brazil in the late 1950’s with increased interest in Brazilian decorative arts and contemporary art. In 1961 he purchased the first work of his nearly 100 object collection. His concentrated efforts on Brazilian geometric and constructive abstraction led him to gather key works of these movements in his country. The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art is a critical component of the Latin American art initiative at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which is represented by the Latin American Art Department and its research arm, the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA).

Researcher
Taylor Kubala; ICAA team
Team
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
Credit
Adolpho Leirner © Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 2008