Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s–1990s, a major retrospective at Singapore's National Gallery (14 June–15 September 2019), opens emphatically in flames. At the exhibition's entrance, viewers encounter a wall-sized image from 1964 titled Burning Canvases Floating on the River. The photograph captures a performance by Lee Seung-taek, in which...
When the London-born artist Thomas J Price graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Arts in 2004, the school's college art prize was by no means his most notable accomplishment as an emerging artist. In 2001, Price presented his much-talked-about work Licked, a daring performance, later profiled on the BBC 4 television...
Without punctuation, She Said Why Me, the title of May Fung's 1989 video presents itself as a statement, rather than a question. It suggests a subject who expects no response, a person prepared to make what she can from being chosen though perplexed by the attention. The video follows a blindfolded woman, then unmasked, through late colonial-era...
Oiticica's CC5 Hendrix-War (1973) anticipates the work of Pipilotti Rist. Credit: Agaton Strom for The New York Times.
What can art do for you? Brighten your wall. Return your investment. Snag you a pass to a V.I.P. lounge. That's about it in the art fair age. And if those are your criteria of aesthetic value, I can't think what you'd make of Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium at the Whitney Museum of American Art, a survey of scrappy, ephemeral work so high on politics, drugs and crazy love as to seem to be from some other planet, which it is: Planet 1960s/'70s, as occupied by one sometimes-transplanted Brazilian artist for 42 brief years.
The most influential Brazilian artist of the second half of the 20th century, Hélio Oiticica began his career as a painter and progressively strayed into a more ephemeral, dynamic, performance-oriented oeuvre which culminated with large-sized installations. His intense artistic output was constantly accompanied by prolific, razor-sharp reflections on the directions of Contemporary Art. A student of Ivan Serpa's, he participated actively in the Concrete adventure as a member of collective Grupo Frente (1955–1956) but, starting in the late 1950s, as he became affiliated with Grupo Neoconcreto (1959), he felt a need to free himself up from bidimensionality and started creating more radically sensorial, interactive artworks. Thus were born the Relevos and Núcleos espaciais series, the early instances of a research on colour and space that would eventually culminate in the creation of his Bólides and especially Penetráveis, large-scale installations first exhibited at Whitechapel Gallery, in London (in the famous 1969 show Eden).
Controversial and irreverent, he has always championed the poetical and ethical richness of marginalised forms of life (Seja marginal, seja herói' [Be an outsider, be a hero]), which translated into pulsating works such as his Parangolés, which are probably the most direct and concise example of his aspiration to merge art and life. Guy Brett notes that Oiticica was part of a group of artists which 'was a metaphor for a different experience of being in this world, either alone or in the company of others, as a hub for building sensorial pleasure, contemplation, and creativity; proposing a kind of mythical place for feelings, for action, for creating things, and building your own inner cosmos.'
Born in 1937 in Rio de Janeiro, his vocabulary quickly became geometrical, and he joined the Grupo Frente (1954–1956) and later the Neo-Concrete movement (1959–1961). From 1964 to 1969, he created playful artworks, including _Parangolé, _1964, _Tropicália, _1967, and _Apocalipopótesis, _1968, both at art institutions and on the streets. He was a main attraction of the show Nova objetividade brasileira, Rio de Janeiro, 1967, sending the national avant-garde into effervescence. Recipient of the Guggenheim fellowship, he moved to New York, where he lived until 1978. Hélio Oiticica died in 1980, in Rio de Janeiro. In 2007, Oiticica was celebrated with an extensive retrospective The Body of Color at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, curated by Mari Carmen Ramirez, and later at Tate Modern, 2008.
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