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  • Provenance

    Projeto Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro
    Private Collection, Rio de Janeiro

  • Catalogue Essay

    Over the 1960s, Hélio Oiticica maintained the concision of his previous aesthetic practice while becoming increasingly responsive to manifestations within popular culture. His production inscribed itself first and foremost within the field of fine art and was therefore independent of immediate political factions. This is not to say, however, that it was apolitical. Oiticica’s re-evaluation of cultural appropriation and his association with popular culture did not rely on any attempt to ‘represent’ the people or the imagery associated with popular culture. He nevertheless acknowledged the advent of mass culture, referring to Brazilian popular and marginalized sectors of society.

    In 1967 artists Nelson Leirner and Flávio Motta proposed an urban intervention in São Paulo titled Domingo das Bandeiras (Flag Sunday) where artists would produce flags which would then be sold in the streets to the passing public. Within the context of the harsh political conditions imposed by the military regime, the São Paulo municipality prohibited the event from taking place, arguing that it constituted an unpatriotic provocation. The event was thus transferred to Rio, and it took place in February of the following year at the General Osório Square in Ipanema. It received an enthusiastic welcome from local artists, amongst them Oiticica, who displayed his flag Seja Marginal Seja Herói (Be an Outlaw Be a Hero). Here we find Oiticica the polemicist, taking the side of a common thief, an unfortunate inhabitant of the slums, who appeared in a newspaper after being executed by a death squad. This flag is often associated with another homage the artist made to the outlaw Cara de Cavalo, exhibited in 1966 at the exhibition The Brazilian Artist and Mass Iconography, a work that was described by the art critic Frederico Morais as ‘perhaps the most radically poetic moment of all contemporary Brazilian art.’

    In Seja Marginal Seja Herói, Oiticica draws heavily on his readings of Nietzsche, in which the Christ figure is transformed into a Dionysian character through the powerfully provocative slogan. Moreover, the hero in this case is not a working class hero in the Marxist sense, which is characterized by sacrifice of life for the greater cause. The hero in this case is someone who celebrated life despite the adversity he found himself in, a condition affirmed by the artist in another work, a Parangolé holding the slogan ‘From adversity we live’.

  • Artist Biography

    Hélio Oiticica

    Brazilian • 1937 - 1980

    Hélio Oiticica is one of Brazil's most influential artists. His work ranges from abstract compositions to early environmental installations exploring color, form, and material. He studied under Ivan Serpa in the mid-1950s and joined Grupo Frente, an association of artists in Rio de Janeiro interested in developing the legacy of European Constructivism within the context of the modernization of Brazil. Disagreements with the São Paulo Ruptura group led Oiticica and Lygia Clark to create the Neo-Concrete group (1959-'61).

    His Metaesquemas (1957-'58) are an important series of gouaches where color is reduced to a few tones and broken into irregular shapes that are isolated within a grid. However he soon rejected this conventional art form for more radical ones that demanded viewer participation, including his Parangoles (1964–'68), three-dimensional sculptures based on traditional Brazilian Carnival costumes. Yet an exploration of the physical nature of color remained a constant in his work up until his untimely death in 1980.

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BRAZILIAN

1

Seja Marginal Seja Herói (Be an Outlaw Be a Hero)

1968
Black ink on cloth.
37 3/8 x 45 1/4 in. (95 x 115 cm).
Signed by César Oiticica Filho on the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Projeto Hélio Oiticica.

Estimate
$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $92,500

Latin America

14 & 15 November 2011
New York