It is true that the writer clearly stated that he was not proposing a program for Brazilian art criticism and history. However, this essay by the intellectual and professor Rodrigo Naves (b. 1955) may be read as an attempt at systematizing the lacunas in Brazilian art criticism, whether in Modern or contemporary art. The essay emphasizes the importance of the exhibition Opinião 65, at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, as the frame for the cultural repercussions of the arts starting in the 1960s, in addition to the undeniable maturity of the art milieu. Naves reminds us of the importance to Brazil of visiting exhibitions by the U.S. artists Barnett Newman, Donald Judd and Frank Stella. Shown at the São Paulo biennials in the 1970s, their experimental, minimalist investigations exercised great influence on some of the artists of the next generation. The writer highlights the process of the development of art criticism in Brazil during that same period due to the brilliant performance of Mario Pedrosa, Ferreira Gullar and Frederico Morais, as well as the journal Malasartes, which appeared in the mid-1970s. Finally, Naves performs a thoughtful analysis of the “reorientation” that befell the developing Brazilian art system during the 1980s. As to the cause, he believes a key factor was the “multiculturalist acceptance” of the work of Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and Mira Schendel. In other words, Naves identifies a certain progressive theory of the arts that underlies the critical analysis applied to such artists, which then are considered as a point of departure toward forms of art deemed “superior” to those that went before them.
Art historian, critic, university professor and even writer of fiction, Rodrigo Naves was editor of the supplement Folhetim, of the Folha de São Paulo, as well as of the journal Novos Estudos. He is currently director of the publishing project Espaços da Arte Brasileira for the publisher Cosac Naify.
The theme of contradiction (and obviously, ideological hypocrisy) runs through many years of Naves’s criticism of Brazilian art history.