Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, Exhibition view at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo: Elisa Wouk Almino for Hyperallergic.
I’ve heard Caetano Veloso’s 1968 song Tropicália hundreds of times. My parents, who are Brazilian, played it when I was growing up, and it embodies most everything I love in music: an eclectic mix of samba, bossa nova, and rock. Some might say it’s the song that launched the career of Veloso, who that same year would be jailed, together with fellow musician Gilberto Gil, by Brazil’s military dictatorship. Tropicália became the chosen name for the Brazilian artistic movement of the time that was anarchist in spirit and disillusioned by the modernist projects of the preceding decade that soured under the oppressive regime.
Less common knowledge is that the term 'Tropicália' was actually taken from the title of a 1967 artwork by Hélio Oiticica, which was recreated for his current retrospective at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The work consists of a small island of sand and pebbles inhabited by two Amazonian parrots in a cage and two box-like installations.