ZürichThe visit of Max Bill - Concrete Art in Brazil
Galerie Kogan Amaro presents the double exhibition The visit of Max Bill. It is an homage to the Swiss artist, designer and architect who exercised a profound influence on a younger generation of Brazilian artists in the 1950s. Galerie Kogan Amaro is showing works of this Brazilian avant-garde movement and complementing them with those of a contemporary artist.
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Fernanda Figuereido, a Brazilian artist living in Berlin, explores the relationship between Max Bill and those artists from a modern perspective. Her paintings are a visual contribution to the discourse on postcolonialism but also a homage to the great Swiss polymath.
The exhibition is a tribute to the Swiss artist, designer and architect Max Bill, who was a major influence on a younger generation of Brazilian artists in the 1950s. A Max Bill retrospective, the first ever, at the recently founded Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo in 1950 proved to be a revelation for many young artists. They saw in the rationalist vocabulary of Concrete Art a form of artistic expression that corresponded to the process of rapid modernization then underway in Brazil.
In 1951, at the first São Paulo Biennial, several artists presented new works that manifested their engagement with Concrete Art, concretismo, and their individual appropriation of it. At the Biennial the international sculpture prize was awarded to Max Bill – in absentia – for his Tripartite Unity. He came to Brazil for the second Biennial in 1953 as a member of the jury and gave a series of lectures around the country.
In 1952 a group of artists established Ruptura in São Paulo. Their group show that same year at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art marked the arrival of Concretism in Brazil, the public acknowledgment of this very different kind of art. Four members of Grupo Ruptura are represented at our exhibition: Waldemar Cordeiro (1925-1973), Luiz Sacilotto (1924- 2003), Lothar Charoux (1912-1987) and Judith Lauand (b.1922). Hercules Barsotti (1914-2010) and Willys de Castro (1926-1988) met Max Bill in 1958 when they were on a trip to Europe, and upon their return joined the Neoconcretismo group in Rio de Janeiro. In 1960 Max Bill organised an exhibition on Concrete Art – 50 years of development at the Helmhaus in Zurich; it included works by Barsotti, de Castro and Lauand.
Antonio Maluf (1926-2005) designed the poster for the first São Paulo Biennial. It was a milestone in graphic design in Brazil. His strictly geemotrical compositions generate an optical vibration, an illusion of movement. Hercules Barsotti rejected strict rules of composition. Already in his early watercolours, in which irregular triangles are superimposed on each other, the interplay of reduction and expansion often engenders a sense of visual rotation or vibration. It was not until the 1960s that he used colour to create chromatic tension. While the forms remain geometrical, the palette is intuitive and colour is applied irregularly and spontaneously in the very process of creation. He also broke with the convention of rectangular formats. He preferred round ones and five- or six-sided shaped canvases, thus literally reframing painting. His work lives from the tension between objective rules and subjective visual practice. Judith Lauand also challenges rules and dogma, choosing unusual formats and materials, including sand; here she uses Chinese ink. Willys de Castro, by contrast, worked with great precision; his geometrical compositions explore mirrorings and balance. The forms may be clear, but the visual experiences of the viewer are manifold. Luiz Sacilotto (1924-2003), who had a sculpture at documenta 12 investigated perception and optical illusions with his pictures of lines and patterns; he is considered a founder of Op Art. The same holds for Lothar Charoux (1912-1987), who creates vibrant lines of colour set against a black background. Waldemar Cordeiro was a representative of Concretism who in the late 1960s became a pioneer and leading figure in computer art. Raymundo Colares (1944-1986), a generation younger, was a student of Lothar Charoux and moved from Concretism to pop art.
Works by these artists can be found in a number of major collections, including MoMA in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
Text: Kolja Kohlhoff
Courtesy of the artists and Kogan Amaro, Zürich