Antonio Lizarraga

Image: Antonio Lizárraga (Jornal de Resenhas)


Commentary on the book by Annateresa Fabris, a critical study of the trajectory of the argentinian artist

In addition to an excellent critical study of the trajectory of the Argentine artist since his arrival in Brazil in 1959, Antonio Lizárraga: A Poetics of Radicality (Edusp) proposes a review of the axioms and practices of the constructive aspect of Brazilian art. It is a reflection “on the constitution of a certain way of reception of national artistic production” promoted by the constructivist reading, which emphasizes concrete and neoconcrete projects as exclusive founders of a truly modern art and its contemporary directions.

Lizárraga's extensive and varied production, from drawing to painting, including industrial design, visual programming, metal engraving, lithography, serigraphy, graphic design and interference in the urban environment, allows Annateresa Fabris to explain conceptual postulates, aesthetic categories and a model of analysis that is not guided by “the most current approaches to abstract art in Brazil”.

Historiography, art criticism and analysis of works make up a reflection on the insertion of that artist in the line of Brazilian constructive art and, simultaneously, an outline of the configuration of the artistic environment in the last three decades. Annateresa's methodology postulates the relationship between the work and the social context as necessary, both because she considers it the most adequate to deal with the problem of the reception of a work and because of her commitment to combating what she considers the reductionism of the criticism that favors reading. constructivism of Brazilian modernity.

The reductionism would come from disregarding the peculiarities of the works' productive activity, incomprehensible without reference to the local problems of constitution of the artistic field. Thus, the differential to discuss this issue is the following: there is a mismatch between a modern production, locally referred, and the critical categories used in its analysis, as these are more adequate to a universalizing conception of artistic modernity. But why, Mário Pedrosa would say, would we have to retrace the European steps towards the constitution of a modern art in Brazil? It is therefore necessary to verify the reasons why Annateresa sees in Lizárraga a privileged case of work that, although situated within the scope of constructivism, presents interventions in the project developed in Brazil from the 1950s onwards.

In the analysis of Lizárraga's production, the author detects a common thread responsible for the singularity of a work not aligned with any of the current languages. The heterodox composition – of extreme geometric rigor and sensoriality – indicates a peculiar assimilation of constructivist postulates. It is the use of color that produces a gestural displacement of the constructive practices that were being experimented with, configuring the “gesture as a project”. Considering the various stages into which Lizárraga's activity is divided, Annateresa credits the use of color with the shift from drawing to painting with the integration of the various experimental sequences.

When Lizárraga arrives in Brazil and soon begins, through the hands of Lourival Gomes Machado, the collaboration in the “Literary Supplement” of the newspaper The State of S. Paul he made “a predominantly organic abstract design”, in which geometric elements emerged, also present in the industrial design projects for the San Marco artistic glass factory. In the following period, the activity diversified, in line with the experimental dispersion of the 70s and the aesthetic proposals and critical debates around the integration of art in industrial society. Responding to the demands for the constitution of a denser artistic field, Lizárraga collaborates in the implementation of collective actions and organizations – such as the Plastic Artists Cooperative –, while working in the graphic arts, holography, xerox, engraving and proposals for urban aesthetics.

The last step is triggered by a tragic fact, which changes the direction of his work. In 1983, a stroke prevented him from continuing to do his work directly. Gradually, he conceives a “sui generis” process: with the help of assistants, he articulates a project in which the passage from conception to the objective realization of the works is mediated by a meticulous dictation. So, Lizárraga integrates the different experimental lines, so that the passage from organic to constructive abstraction does not disconnect sensorial suggestions.

The common thread of his activities is the relationship between form and color, and not the dichotomy between pure form and applied form, generally interested in optical effects. Its color is structural, it is “color-form”, with which the research maintains connections with the active objects of Willys de Castro and even with the “nuclear development of color” by Hélio Oiticica. Through “subtle games of deconstruction”, with the sensoriality of color that makes the form meaningful, Lizárraga intervenes in the concretist postulates themselves. Not considering that the emergence of the corporeity of color could provoke dangerous approximations of expressivist subjectivism, he manifests in works after 1983 a “sensitivity of the sign alien to any subjective digression”.

Thus, considering Lizárraga's production, Annateresa sees in it a special moment of re-elaboration in Brazil of the postulates of constructivism. Lizárraga's interference would formulate a kind of reflection on constructivist formulations, composing a “project of plastic reason” that integrates the painter and the designer, pure and applied art. For Annateresa, such a project, which makes the artist a visual operator, a researcher of images, denotes a desublimated vision of art.

*Celso Favaretto is an art critic, retired professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and author, among other books, of The invention of Helio Oiticica (Edusp).

Originally published on Journal of Reviews, nº 68, on 11/11/2000.


Annateresa Fabris. Antonio Lizárraga: A Poetics of Radicality. Com-Artes/Edusp, 288 pages.


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