Concrete and Neoconcrete art of the 50s/60s in Brazil

Concretes/Neoconcretes Paulistas Exhibition
Curator: Macaparana

In São Paulo there is currently an ongoing exhibition of the Concrete and Neoconcrete art of 1950s/60s, which attracts attention of European critics and collectors. In the past few years there has been a significant rise of interest in Brazilian geometric abstract art and the artists presented on the exhibition are of top international tier. Their names can be found in the most important contemporary art museums around the world like MoMA or Houston Museum), as well as prestigious auction houses. As the curator of the exhibition, Macaparana, revealed to me, it was extremely difficult to gather the pieces for this exhibition, as most artworks of the chosen artists remain currently outside of Brazil and in private collections. However, the curator managed to present to us some rarities. But let’s start from the beginning…

Concrete Art and Neoconcret appeared in Brazil from the 1940s to 1950s, provoking a rupture with the modernist tradition that dominated the artistic scene since the Week of 1922. This discontinuity caused great impact among the young Brazilian artists and intellectuals, dethroning the values until then propagated by Modernism – not only for presenting well-founded concepts, but also for legitimizing an aesthetic and philosophical ideology capable of reflecting the new times that were installed.

In place of the figurativism of nationalist or regionalist themes of Modernism, Concrete and Neoconcrete Art presents a universal and rational tone based on geometric language that attracts a whole new generation of avant-garde artists from São Paulo. Willys de Castro, Waldemar Cordeiro, Antonio Maluf, Geraldo de Barros, Hercules Barsotti, Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Maurício Nogueira Lima, Alexandre Wollner, Judith Lauand, Luiz Sacilotto and Lothar Charoux, and Alfredo Volpi in their concrete phase, are the artists of this selection group that integrate the exhibition Concretos / Neoconcretos Paulistas, which Studio Nóbrega receives between October 26 and November 17. On November 11, the space still participates in Art Weekend São Paulo 2017.

The exhibition presents 25 works by authors of stellar figures, carefully selected by the abstract-geometric artist Macaparana who, at the invitation of the gallery, signs the curatorship of the exhibition. The artist had the privilege of living with several of these figures that influenced the foundations of his artistic language, today, of international renown. “My goal was to highlight the geometric abstraction produced by the São Paulo group in the second half of the 20th century, from Concretism to the emergence of the Neoconcreto group in Rio. I do not see a split between them and, rather, a relaxation of the creative process of the artists”, explains the curator. To complement the understanding of the period, catalogs and original texts of the time contextualize the works, located mostly between the years 1950 and 1960, the time of greatest effervescence of the two groups. “The end of the Second World War (1939-1945) provoked a wave of optimism, fueled by the developmentalist agenda of national politics, which was reflected in the artistic field. The screen is built exclusively by plastic elements – planes and colors – with no meaning other than themselves. Another significant consequence of Concrete Art is the end of the influence of the Paris School on Brazilian art, “adds Macaparana.

Also present at the event are the following artists: the Swiss Max Bill (1908-1994) and the German Josef Albers (1888-1976), both associated with the Bauhaus. It was the theories of these two thinkers that aroused interest in geometric abstraction in Brazil in two transformative events: in MAM / SP, in 1949/1950, and in the 1st International Biennial of São Paulo, in 1951, in which Max Bill wins the acquisition prize with the famous sculpture Tripartite Unit. Of the artists, two rarities: the oil on canvas with economy of visual elements, Kondensation Von Komplementar Faben (1969) of Max Bill, which attests his fidelity to the concrete theories; and Josef Albers’ WLS XI (1966) screen, which demonstrates the artist’s schematic and chromatic purism in a tricolor aluminum lithograph.

Max Bill – Kondensation Von Komplementar Faben, 1969

Max Bill – Kondensation Von Komplementar Faben, 1969

Concretists and neoconcretists in Brazil 

Although the geometric language is common to the groups of São Paulo and Rio, the new plastic reflection, from the beginning, already denoted different positions. The São Paulo concretists were characterized by a more objective and rigorous elaboration, while the Rio neoconcretists manifested themselves more spontaneously, averse to the theories introduced by Max Bill. 

The divergences between Rio and São Paulo are explained by the First National Exhibition of Concrete Art, held in 1956 at the MAM-SP; and taken the following year to the Ministry of Education and Culture in Rio de Janeiro. The exhibition began the differentiation of the two groups that, from 1959, assumed the denominations of Concreto and Neoconcreto. The Studio Nóbrega exhibition pays homage to both, from the point of view of the artists from São Paulo.

Works and artists

“In the early 1950s, Volpi broke with figuration and went for a brief constructivist period, now considered one of the highlights of his career,” elucidates the curator. In the tempera on canvas Untitled by Alfredo Volpi (1896-1988), from the 1950s, the halves of the bichromatic picture, divided diagonally, gain a cube of the opposite color, as a symbol of the vector Yin Yang, and filling the screen evidence of the translucency of the technique.

Alfredo Volpi – Untitled, 1950’s

Alfredo Volpi – Untitled, 1950’s

The Untitled painting produced by the concrete Geraldo de Barros (1923-1998), in 1953, prints a colored constellation on a black background, in which circles and straight lines are confused in the dotted representation. The work is one of those that arrived at Studio Nóbrega by the collection of concrete poet Décio Pignatari, after his death in 2012.

Geraldo de Barros – Untitled, 1953

Geraldo de Barros – Untitled, 1953

Another work that incorporates the concrete foundations of the impression of spatiality is the painting Untitled (1956) by Hermelindo Fiaminghi (1920-2004). In it, triangles are sectioned by black circles, matte and shiny, bringing to the screen the trompe l’oeil effect that accentuates the dimensionality of the work. Simultaneous Stages (1975), of the neoconcrete Hercules Barsotti (1914-2010), uses the schematic division of colors in a diamond to provoke a tridimensionality achieved by his excellent ability to create chromatic sequences.

Hermelindo Fiaminghi – Untitled, 1956

Hermelindo Fiaminghi – Untitled, 1956

According to Neoconcrete poet Ferreira Gullar (1930-2016), one of its founders and perhaps the Brazilian intellectual who most devoted himself to analyzing this revolutionary artistic current, “Concrete art and Neoconcreta belong today to the History of Brazilian Art and about they have already been very much reflected and wrote, due to the role they played in the course of that history.” This is the motto that leads Studio Nóbrega to honor this group of exceptional artists in the exhibition Concretos / Neoconcretos Paulistas.

Concretes/Neoconcretes Paulistas Exhibition

Concretes/Neoconcretes Paulistas Exhibition

About the  curator 

The plastic artist Macaparana (1952) is undoubtedly among the exponents of the contemporary abstract-geometric aspect. In the 1970s, when he moved from Recife to São Paulo, where he lived since then, his talent as a painter, drawer and sculptor drew attention to the concrete Hércules Barsotti, Willys de Castro and Antonio Maluf, who introduced him to Pietro Maria Bardi, founder of MASP. In 1979, besides promoting in MASP the first individual of the artist born in Pernambuco, Bardi made him adopt the name of his native city of Macaparana. His works have already participated in individual and collective exhibitions in Recife, Rio, São Paulo and Brasília, as well as in Mexico City, Tokyo, New York and London, and his work is in the collections of museums and private collections in Brazil and abroad. Macaparana is represented by Dan Galeria (SP), Galerie Denise René (Paris) and Jorge Mara – La Ruche Gallery (Buenos Aires). 

Concrete / Neoconcrete Paulistas 

Location: Studio Nóbrega
Opening: October 26th, from 7pm
Exhibition period: from October 27 to November 17
Address: Rua Estados Unidos, 1162, São Paulo, SP
Visitation: Monday to Friday from 10am to 7pm
Phone: (11) 3031-0142 / (11) 98193-4060

Special thanks to Macaparana and Studio Nóbrega for available materials.

Judith Lauand – Espiral, 1956

Judith Lauand – Espiral, 1956

Judith Lauand – Agrupar de elementos, 1959

Judith Lauand – Agrupar de elementos, 1959

Hércules Barsotti – Interior verde, 1964

Hércules Barsotti – Interior verde, 1964

Hércules Barsotti – Untitled, 1956

Hércules Barsotti – Untitled, 1956

Maurício Nogueira Lima – Objeto Rítmico. N:3, 1953

Maurício Nogueira Lima – Objeto Rítmico. N:3, 1953

Waldemar Cordeiro – Tudo consumido, 1964

Waldemar Cordeiro – Tudo consumido, 1964

Willys de Castro – Pintura, 1957

Willys de Castro – Pintura, 1957

 

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