Transformations of art in Brazil

Rubens Gerchman, Os Inhabitants III, 1964, gouache on paper, 55 cm x 75,2 cm


Commentary on the book by Paulo Sérgio Duarte.

The ambition of 60s – Transformations of Art in Brazil it is to unite reflection and didacticism, criticism and history. Conceived as an accessible work for young people willing to learn about the artistic transformations of the 1960s, it is proposed as an “introduction to the history of art” and “a study of the main issues and languages ​​that dominated that moment”. In addition, it intends to offer specialists an opportunity to refresh their memory and assess perspectives on the art of the period.

Operating a selection of artists and works, proposals and activities, Paulo Sérgio articulates a historical-critical field, precise in references and theoretical orientation. Although the intention is not to produce a chapter on the history of art in Brazil, the book is more than an introduction to the period, as it has on the horizon an understanding of the main experiences of that time as founders of contemporary Brazilian art.

The composition of a reflective text, historical information, biography of artists and reproduction of works results in an interpretation of the production of the period, with an unequivocal meaning: the affirmation of the specificity of Brazilian art of the 1960s in confrontation with the American and European experiences, through the criticism of the easy approximations that are commonly made between the New Brazilian Figuration and the Pop art or Nouveau Realisme. The defense of the autonomy of the production of Antonio Dias, Nelson Leirner, Wesley Duke Lee, Roberto Magalhães, Rubens Gerchman and Vergara, for example, is anchored in the ways of articulating formal innovations and the figuration of the historical-cultural situation.

Tracing the predominant research directions of the focused artists and analyzing works, Duarte emphasizes the formal originality of the proposals and the surprising agency of the imaginary. Between the starting point of avant-garde activities, with the exhibition “Opinião 65”, and the explanation of the set of varied experiences, in the exhibition “Nova Objetividade Brasileira”, from 1967, the “Brazilian difference” is outlined.

The works of national artists presented themselves as a critique of the impasses of constructive abstraction and informalism, as well as the ideas and achievements of international trends, Pop, Op, Nouveau Réalisme, Primary Structures, which were the references of the moment. The idea of ​​“participation”, which emerged from neoconcrete experiences, was established as a principle of the aesthetic position that was being defined between 65 and 67. It no longer distinguished the ways of implementing aesthetic programs and ethical-political demands. The social meaning of art should necessarily pass through the renewal of forms, processes and the very conception of art.

Aiming at the imbrication of aesthetic and social non-conformity, structural transformations and creative behavior, spectator participation and the artist-audience relationship, in the text “Esquema Geral da Nova Objetividade”, Hélio Oiticica formulates the following objectives of the activities that made up what he called “Brazilian vanguard”: general constructive will; tendency towards the object by overcoming the frame; spectator participation; taking an ethical-political position; emphasis on collective propositions; new formulations of the concept of anti-art.

The aspirations, the problems, the ambiguities and the destination of the experiences, encoded in these guiding principles of the transformations of the idea and meaning of art, pointed to the existence, at that moment, of a production that was effectively opening up the field of contemporary work in Brazil. Breakthrough art was also foundational art. Hélio Oiticica had a clear idea of ​​this opening; the position he defines with the proposition of the experimental, understood as a “constructive element” is no different: “The loose threads of the experimental are energies that spring to an open number of possibilities”.

In this direction, the author insists on the relevance of the “sense of construction” advocated by Oiticica as the distinctive and most characteristic mark of Brazilian art to date. Composing structural openness and action in the environment, art criticism and cultural significance, the peculiar constructivism unleashed in the 60s by the Brazilian avant-garde would reframe the experiences that, since Neoconcretism, had been causing changes in the conception of the object and meaning of art, as well as the modes of realization. of projects, works and events. This constructive orientation would remain even after, in the early 70s, conceptualism and minimalism diluted the specific Brazilian experiences by consonance with the international experimental field.

In the last part of the text, Paulo Sérgio Duarte points out those “investigations and experiences” that, “after constructivism”, after the closure of the activities of the Brazilian avant-garde, would have founded and consolidated a contemporary Brazilian art, consistent with the general trends of contemporaneity. These artists – Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Mira Schendel and Sérgio Camargo –, developing a “laboratory work”, would have created the conditions for other artists to face the challenge that emerged at the crossroads of criticism in the 60s, of propositions conceptual and minimalist concepts and the new problems posed by the media. The artists emerging from these founding experiences, having incorporated the constructivist heritage, would replace “symbolic violence” with the constitution of art's own symbolisms, situating them in the “confrontation between works of art and institutions”.

*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).


Paul Sergio Duarte. 60s – Transformations of Art in Brazil. Campos Gerais, 324 pages.



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