ShanghaiHélio Oiticica: HO in Motion
Lisson Gallery presents the inaugural exhibition of work by Brazilian artist, Hélio Oiticica, in China. One of the most original artists of the twentieth century, Oiticica had a marked influence on all aspects of Brazilian avant-garde culture, and his performative, participatory work served as a touchstone for much contemporary art made since the 1960s.
The exhibition serves as an introduction to the artist’s practice by presenting pivotal works from throughout his career, including a series of Metaesquema paintings (1957-1958), a Spatial Relief from 1960 that has featured in many of the significant institutional exhibitions on his work, and an experimental video work. This selection captures the complex and multi-dimensional evolution of Oiticica’s oeuvre, and introduces the activist, exuberant works that reflect the culture and society he was embedded in. A cosmopolitan traveler – moving from Brazil to London and New York before returning to Rio de Janeiro – Oiticica’s ideas continue to expand globally and unfold new meanings for the world, now reaching Asia in a major way for the first time.
Even before the age of 20, Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980) was a founding member of the historic Rio de Janeiro-based art movement, Grupo Frente, alongside artists Ivan Serpa, Aluisio Carvão, Lygia Clark, and Lygia Pape, and went on to become a leading figure of Brazilian Neo-Concretism. This predisposed the larger cultural movement known as ‘Tropicalismo’, named after Oiticica’s groundbreaking installation Tropicália (1967), which used art, poetry and music to address the country’s changing dynamics. While Oiticica began his career with geometric explorations into painting and drawing, he soon expanded his practice to include ambitious architectural installations, film, writing, sculpture and large-scale, immersive environments. Through these, he confronted the traditional boundaries of art and challenged the separation of the art-as-object from the viewer, encouraging active participation and dissolving the boundary between art and life.
The works featured in the exhibition demonstrate the key concepts that characterised Oiticica’s approach, illustrating in particular the artist’s interest in dynamic movement throughout his career. The series of Metaesquema – created from 1957-1958 while living and working in Rio de Janeiro – show his manipulation of seemingly simple geometric compositions. These works are imbued with a remarkable energy despite their two-dimensionality, bursting with rhythm and the avant-garde spirit of Brazilian culture, as well as providing an insight into his analytical and reflexive nature.
Another work in the show, a vibrant yellow Relevo Espacial (1959-60) marks the beginning of the 1960s era, where Oiticica’s aesthetic restlessness kept his work in continuous transformation. Here the viewer’s participation is required, as they must circumnavigate the Spatial Relief in order to experience colour as form. The final work in the exhibition is an experimental video work, entitled Helioframes (1979), made in collaboration with the Brazilian filmmaker, Ivan Cardoso. Made with 35mm film, this series of projected graphic interventions produces a melodic environment, deepening his aesthetic experimentation by further dematerialising the work of art.
The exhibition will also be accompanied by an essay by the distinguished art historian, Roberto Conduru.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)