The pioneering work of Hélio Oiticica (Rio de Janeiro, 1937-1980) stands out for its radical and experimental character. He began his studies in 1954 at Museu de Arte de Moderna in Rio under the Brazilian artist Ivan Serpa (1923-1973). Oiticica’s early works made in the 1950s established a dialogue with the concretist experiments prevalent at the time. He took part in the important artist’s associations Grupo Frente in 1955-56 and the Grupo Neoconcreto in 1959. In 1957, he began his extensive series of works called Metaesquemas, at once highly complex and concise abstract geometric exercises made with gouache on paper, many of them imbued with a heightened sense of movement, dynamism and rhythm. According to Oiticica, these small scale geometric compositions are key works because they already possess the conflict between pictorial space and extra-pictorial space, foreshadowing the overcoming of the flat, two dimensional support and the opening of his work to the street and daily life, developing the what would be his most unique and powerful contribution: the intertwining of art and life.
In 1964, Oiticica attended the Escola de Samba Estação Primeira da Mangueira, or simply Mangueira, one of Rio’s most traditional samba schools, well known for its iconic pink and green bright colors, and there he became a passista (Samba school dancer). Such experience was a transformative one and became a watershed in the artist’s life and work: Oiticica deepened his engagement with and reflections on aesthetic experiences beyond the visual and static as well as the traditional fine arts, incorporating bodily and sensitive relations to his work from his own dances and rhythms. At this moment, Oiticica begins to produce the radical Parangolés, which, according to the artist himself, are anti-art works. The Parangolés are covers, banners and flags constructed with colored cloths, at times bearing sentences of a political or poetic nature, to be worn or carried, danced or performed by the viewer turned participant and performer.
The exhibition, organized by MASP and Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM Rio), takes as its title a historical text by Oiticica, written in 1965: “Dance in My Experience”. The show will present a wide selection of the Parangolés, including exhibition copies that can be worn by the public, with a focus on those with stronger connections to dance, music and popular culture. In addition, a number of other works will be gathered under the perspective of dance and rhythm, presenting a trajectory that will ultimately lead to the Parangolé, composing a genealogy of sorts for this radical work: Metaesquemas, Relevos espaciais, Núcleos and Bólides. The exhibition will also feature extensive documentary material, including photographs and artist's writings.
A fully illustrated monograph will be published, edited by Pedrosa and Toledo, with newly commissioned essays by Adrian Anagnost, Vivian Crockett, Fernando Cocchiarale, Fernanda Lopes, Evan Moffitt, Sergio Delgado Moya, Cristina Ricúpero and Tania Rivera, also featuring key writings by Oiticica.
CURATED BY Adriano Pedrosa, Artistic Director, MASP; Tomás Toledo, Chief Curator, MASP.