This presentation examines an important series of works created by Hélio Oiticica at a crucial transformational period in the artist’s development. Part of a generation of artists based in Rio de Janeiro that included Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape, Oiticica is a seminal figure in postwar Brazilian art and a key connector to themes of modernism and political action. His Bólides works—the name refers to celestial fireballs—mark the starting point of a highly experimental and productive period from the 1960s until his death in 1980. Examples of the artist’s earliest investigations into interactivity, the moderately scaled Bólides engage the artist’s problem of reconciling his inherited formal language with the potential for exploring duration as a vital dimension of spectatorship.
The exhibition features a dozen works spanning from 1963 to the late 1970s. The earliest in the group, painted wooden structures, relate intimately to the language of geometric abstraction. As Oiticica continued to develop the Bólides, he began to use found objects in a new way and treated color—in the form of raw pigments and other natural elements—as sculptural material. Along with their innovative formal investigations, the Bólides demonstrate Oiticica’s critical address of Brazil’s tumultuous political atmosphere, social marginalization, and economic disparity. The Bólides were produced as the military regime was becoming ever more repressive, forcing a number of artists, including Oiticica, to go into voluntary and involuntary exile.
Oiticica (b. 1937, Rio de Janeiro; d. 1980, Rio de Janeiro) founded, along with his generational peers Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Ferreira Gullar, the Neo- Concrete movement in 1959, using visual geometries as a way of making the spectators aware of their spatial relationship to the artwork. Recent retrospectives of the artist’s work have been presented at the Art Institute of Chicago (2017); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2006–07); and the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (2002).
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