Hauser & Wirth Presents 'Sensitive Geometries', Sept 12
In the years after World War II, Brazil found itself in a state of dramatic change. Economic prosperity, political democratization, and social reorganization marked the decade of the 1950s as one of the most expansive in Brazilian history. In the cultural realm, urban renewal propelled the construction of Brasilia and witnessed the creation of modern art museums in both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The first São Paulo Biennale was held in 1951, signaling the advent of an artistic revolution that would capture the attention of both the Brazilian public and wider circles of artists, intellectuals, and critics abroad. Brazil in the mid-20th century was emerging as a dynamic cultural center of international significance.
Beginning 12 September 2013, Hauser & Wirth New York will present 'Sensitive Geometries. Brazil 1950s - 1980s', a landmark historical exhibition that explores this pivotal moment and reveals the evolution of a distinct visual vocabulary in Brazil through the work of twelve artists of different generations: Lothar Charoux, Waldemar Cordeiro, João José Costa, Geraldo De Barros, Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Paulo Roberto Leal, Rubem Ludolf, Anna Maria Maiolino, Mira Schendel, Ivan Serpa, Franz Weissmann, and Paulo Werneck. Inspired by an infectious spirit of postwar renewal and creativity, 'Sensitive Geometries' traces a shift in attitude towards artistic approaches in non-figurative art and the tenets of a period in which artists experimented with the expressive possibilities of a geometric language.
Conceived and organized with Olivier Renaud-Clément, 'Sensitive Geometries' will remain on view at Hauser & Wirth's East 69th Street townhouse through 26 October. The exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication, produced in concept and design as a facsimile of an exhibition catalogue published in 1959 for the first Neo-Concrete exhibition, held at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro.
Movements and their Muses
Concrete Art developed in Brazil in the early 1950s as a result of a renewed cultural exchange with Europe following World War II. During this period, internationally recognized artists like Alexander Calder and Max Bill participated in important exhibitions in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and introduced a new abstract aesthetic to Latin American art. Concrete Art traces its influence to the movements of modern abstraction, rooted in the Constructivist language developed in Europe and exemplified by De Stijl, Neoplasticism, and the Ulm School. For the first time, artists began to gather together in groups, associations, and collectives. Brazil sought to break from its provincial past by rejecting traditions of figurative painting and adopting an abstract geometric vocabulary. Thus the Concrete movement grew in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and it played a critical role in the development of the Brazilian avant-garde. Concretist groups were formed in each city: Grupo Ruptura was established in São Paulo in 1952, and in Rio de Janeiro the Grupo Frente was founded in 1954.
Ivan Serpa, who was awarded the Young Painter's prize at the first São Paulo International Biennial and whose compact gouache of delicate black lines and boxes 'Untitled' (1958) is included in 'Sensitive Geometries', became one of the precursors of Concrete Art in Brazil. He soon began teaching open studio courses at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro and influenced a generation of artists, encouraging his students to experiment with geometric language and to find their own individual means of artistic expression.
In São Paulo, Lothar Charoux worked as a founding member of Grupo Ruptura. His art, represented in 'Sensitive Geometries' by the oil on wood composition 'Horizontals' (1960), offers forms that optically challenge a viewer's fixed gaze. Creating visual rhythms through elaborate symmetries and arrangements, Charoux frames three-dimensional space with a geometric vocabulary that plays with color, line, and plane.
In 1956, Groupa Ruptura and the Concretists exhibited together for the first time at the inaugural National Exhibition of Concrete Art at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo. Differences in their approach became evident quickly and stirred conflict between the São Paulo and Rio-based artists. In 1959, the Rio artists actively rejected the theories of Concrete Art and established a new movement: The Neo-Concrete movement was comprised of Brazilian artists, poets, and intellectuals who advocated for a more free form of artistic experimentation, reacting against the principles of Concrete Art.