From image to concept



Commentary on the books “ Figurações Brasil Anos 1960”, by Daisy Peccinini and “Poéticas do Processo”, by Cristina Freire

It can be said that a book begins where another ends. The first speaks of the past of something, the other shows later developments. In fact, the figurations of the 1960s, described by Daisy Peccinini, as well as other simultaneous proposals, already manifest the procedural and conceptual tones of the experiences of artists of the most varied tendencies. Cristina Freire shows how, since the beginning of the 1970s, conceptualism stands out from the propositions that prevailed from 1965 to 1968. Then another experimental rhythm opens, in which conceptualism and public participation are differentiated, dispossessing the association between concept and image of the figurations of the 1960s.

If Daisy Peccinini works with proposals that tended more and more towards the ephemeral, however still recoverable, if not by the museum, at least by a theorization that implied figurability, Cristina Freire, reconstructing remains, spoils of ephemeral, behavioral experiences, needs to propose other ways recovery of ideas and processes deposited in the corridors of MAC.

Thus, the two books are extremely useful for perceiving the continuity that historically constitutes itself between the beginning of the avant-garde in the '960s until the fading of their pretensions in the mid-1970s.

This passage dates back to the changes effected in the 1950s and extends to the full realization of contemporaneity in the late 1970s. ”, exemplified in the work of Cristina Freire with the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC-USP). It is also useful to point out that these books show the weakening of the effort to constitute a Brazilian vanguard - patent, at the end of the 1960s, in Hélio Oiticica's text General Scheme of the New Objectivity – and the consequent entry of experimentation into the rhythm of the internationalization of artistic proposals, driven by conceptualism and, here, activated by the work of Walter Zanini at the head of MAC.

The nerve center of Daisy Peccinini's book -the association in all neofigurations between concept and image- allows her to clarify, and better assess, the scope of Wesley Duke Lee's "magical realism", of Wesley Duke Lee's "fantastic and neo-surrealist neo-figurations". José Roberto Aguilar and other artists from São Paulo. The study reconstructs Wesley's multifaceted activities, Aguilar's pictorial, volcanic gestures, articulating them, through such association, with the platform and activities of Grupo Rex and establishes connections with lines considered opposite to these, such as "concrete art". and semantics” by Waldemar Cordeiro.

Daisy surprises in the broad activities of the São Paulo avant-garde, as well as in Rio de Janeiro, the refusal of the practical-theoretical formalizations of the 50s, the resistance to the simple transposition of the pop art North American in Brazilian terms, the imperatives of the Brazilian reality which, by sensitizing the artists, impelled them to reinvent ways of figuration of the imaginary, at the same time modern and particularly Brazilian. That was why Oiticica, at the end of the trajectory of the vanguards, which goes from Opinion 65 e Proposal 65 to New Brazilian Objectivity, in 1967, said that the fundamental problem that he and the other artists faced was that of the image and, in particular, of a Brazilian image. The common issue, therefore, was the resignification of the image after the criticism and propositions of concretists and neoconcretists.

The “problem of realism” is not, therefore, restricted to a return to figuration, in any of the tendencies, but, as Cordeiro said, it was characterized by the search for new significant structures. The ambiguities of this search were many: coexistence of refusal of consumption and use of its communicational language, fantastic-surrealizing figuration and iconicity. Pointing out the ambiguities, informing us about details that clarify the antecedents and impasses of avant-garde activities, mainly in São Paulo, Daisy's book sheds light on an apparently well-known period in the history of Brazilian art, which, in fact, has been widely interpreted, and not so well known.

Considering the proliferation and differentiation of artistic experimentation in the first half of the 1970s, with MAC-USP directed by Walter Zanini as a unifying and disseminating pole of proposals, Cristina Freire poses a different problem from the historiographical one of Daisy Peccinini: how to treat in a museum dematerialized art, almost without works, now reduced to an accumulation of records on paper, photography, xerox, video and film? Saving the documentation abandoned in the museum means, for the author, valuing a time and a work that, although ephemeral, allowed the transition from one image of art to another with the release of the procedural-conceptual tone implicit in the propositions of the 1960s.

Above all, it involves showing how the avant-garde utopia of articulating art and life was implemented in various ways in the early 1970s, producing, in addition to a change in the relationship between artists and the public with art, the displacement of the political function of art. . The ethical-aesthetic commitment that prevailed from the dawn of Brazilian modernity gives way to a politics of bodies, to an ethics of behavior, to the exemplary power of the symbolic gesture. No longer a political art, but the demand for a politics of the arts, with the questioning of the institutional places of its appearance.

Cristina Freire points out the “intellectual discomfort” of this admirable undertaking – highlighting a production that only existed as an event, event, idea or even a poetics of the instant and the gesture –, which calls into question the very object of art and not just the objects of art. art. The discomfort is overcome by a decision that is worth a way of understanding the contemporary in art: giving “intelligibility to the registers” is equivalent to reinserting the ideas and processes once carried out into the horizon of current production.

It is through books that dossiers allow us to reconstitute the symbolic network that presided over the imaginary of those actions. Its strategy, which problematizes the concept of a museum, is to treat records as symptoms. Signs, signs that replace lived propositions, substitutes for unrecoverable impulses, the records allude to a presentification of the signifiers inscribed in those events.

It is an ambiguous operation, no doubt, especially in a museum, but it is an instigating way of showing that the institutional place of art coincides with its political function: the formation of new audiences for another conception of art, which has been in force for a long time, in which the fruitful attention shifts to the reflective attitude.

*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).


Daisy Peccinini. Figurations Brazil in the 60s: fantastic neofigurations and neosurrealism. New Realism and New Objectivity. Edusp/Itaú Cultural, 180 pages.

Cristina Freire. Poetics of the process: conceptual art in the museum. Illuminations/MAC-USP, 197 pages.

Originally published on Folha de S. Paulo / Journal of Reviews no. 61, on April 08, 2000.

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