Hélio Oiticica - Latin America New York Thursday, May 29, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro
    Private Collection, Rio de Janeiro
    Private Collection, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Normal people become visual artists… I did not become a visual artist; my aim was to trigger states of invention."
    Hélio Oiticica

    Hélio Oiticia is widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential figures of Brazilian art. His monumental legacy spans a wide range of styles, philosophies, and conceptual approaches, demonstrating his boundless originality and life-long experimental impulses. Oiticica’s leading role in his country’s avant-garde artistic movement developed throughout decades of drastic socio-cultural changes and growing political unrest. Consequently, he developed a strong interest in the dynamic relationship between art and society, questioning art’s place and function in its human environment. As Oiticica shifted between aesthetic codes and pictorial mechanisms, his work reflected these paradigm shifts in art’s role with relation to its viewer.

    At the onset of Oiticica’s career, the Brazilian artistic landscape was dominated by a fervent adherence to realism and representation. The overarching influence of the Mexican muralists was felt far and wide, prompting a younger generation of artists to seek out new visual languages and means of expression. Oiticica was at the forefront of these efforts, and throughout the 1950s and 60s he experimented with divergent theories and artistic affiliations, such as Grupo Frente and Neo-Concretism. The Grupo Frente artists were united in their rejection of figurative and nationalist art, leading many of their members to champion the aesthetic vocabulary of geometric abstraction. Closely linked to the global Concrete movement, they stripped art from any lyrical or symbolic connotations, believing that art should have no meaning other than color, line, and plane.

    After several years of celebrated exhibitions and great intellectual interaction, some artists began to drift away from these Concrete norms, developing an interest in the subjective and individual experience of art. These artists, who became known as the Neo-Concretists, championed a focus on the freedom of the expressive act. With Oiticica as one of its main proponents, the Neo-Concrete movement highlighted the creative potential of the artist and the incorporation of the spectator in the interpretation of the work. Instead of relying on empiricism and objectivity, they uphold the artwork’s energetic and transformative nature, encouraging the viewer to actively engage and experience it in dynamic ways.

    Oiticica created his Metaesquemas between 1957 and 1958, that is, in the period between his Grupo Frente and Neo-Concrete affiliations. They embody his inquisitive mind and exploratory spirit during this time, when he was sifting through varying influences and perspectives in order to arrive at his own unique artistic outlook. Oiticica coined the term Metaesquema as a means to describe a work that, although schematic (esquema) in its formal development, is still open to the subjective interpretations inherent to metaphysics (meta). Oiticica was aware that artworks are objects that exist in time and space, and as such they are subject to viewers’ heterogeneous experiences of reality.

    When looking at the Metaesquemas, the viewer’s attention is drawn to the geometric qualities of the composition. In the present lot, the viewer can recognize Oiticica’s interest in destabilizing the spatial conventions of concrete painting and its dependence on preconceived compositional structures. The work elaborates grids of rectangular and rhomboidal shapes, appearing to conform to a unified spatial perspective or a bilateral mirroring pattern. These shapes weave in and out of multiple spatial configurations, folding the space diagonally into a contradictory bilateral symmetry. Oiticica’s Metaesquemas are delicate and luminous compositions which offer insight into his innovative segue from one avant-garde to the next. Within his Metaesquemas, Oiticica articulates a kinetic optical illusion of shapes appearing to float slightly off the surface of the paper, rhythmically engaging the viewer.

  • 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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ink on cardstock
17 x 20 1/4 in. (43.2 x 51.4 cm.)
Inscribed "5" on the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Projeto Hélio Oiticica.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $125,000

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
+1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York Auction 29 May 2014 4pm