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(1937 – 1980), Brazil

Hélio Oiticica Biography

Hélio Oiticica was an important figure of the Neo-Concrete (1959–1961) art movement in Brazil. Neo-Concretists called for artworks to be like living organisms, engaging in spatial relationships with the viewers and thereby rejecting a rationalist approach that emphasised pure forms of representation. Despite the short span of the art movement, it informed the artist's progression towards an artistic style that was less formalistic and more interactive, and left a lasting impact on later works in which the participation of the viewers remained a recurring theme.

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Oiticica was born to a scholarly family in Rio de Janeiro in 1937. As a teenager, he learned painting under artist and educator Ivan Serpa at the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro. A year later, in 1955, he joined Grupo Frente (1952–1964), a collective that was co-founded by Serpa and embraced Concrete art. The term Concrete art was first used by Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg in 1930, who advocated for a form of abstraction that removed all reality and symbolic meaning by working with lines, colours, and planes, which he considered to be truly concrete. In his earlier artworks, Oiticica often used gouache on paper or cardboard to explore colour, shape, movement, and geometrical arrangement. The 'Metaesquemas' series (1957–1958), comprising over 350 gouache paintings, is an example of the artist investigating the interaction between shapes and background.

After 'Metaesquemas', Oiticica shifted his artistic interest from two-dimensional paintings to artworks that invite viewers to evaluate their relationship with the physical space. In 1960 the artist became an active participant in the Neo-Concrete movement, which had been initiated in the previous year by Brazilian artists—including Lygia Pape and Lygia Clark—who had grown dissatisfied with the rigidity of Concrete art. Hélio Oiticica's artwork Spatial Relief (red) REL 036 (1960), for example, presents geometrical pieces of plywood painted in red, suspended overhead so that viewers needed to actively navigate through space to see the colours and shapes from different sides.

Oiticica was eager to break the polite distance between viewers and artworks. In the mid-1960s, he began to make other artworks that people could physically interact with, such as his 'Parangolés': capes and banners printed with messages that people could wave or wear while dancing. The artist's most notable participatory artwork, Tropicália (1967), was an installation recreating the stereotype of Brazil as a tropical state, where visitors were invited to lounge on the sand, stroll around the palm plants, or even relax in the makeshift structures. In the artist's own words, 'The museum is the world' and an 'everyday experience.'

Collections that feature Hélio Oiticica's artworks include Tate; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Chelsea Ma | Ocula | 2019

Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, AAA – Antologia de Arte e Arquitetura Curated by Sol Camacho, Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, Galpão (22 August–17 October 2020). Courtesy Bergamin & Gomide and Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel.

Hélio Oiticica Featured Artworks

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Untitled by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork
Hélio OiticicaUntitled, 1956Gouache on cardboard
34.6 x 36.1 cm
Lisson Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork
Hélio OiticicaUntitled, 1956Gouache on cardboard
21.9 x 24 cm
Lisson Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork
Hélio OiticicaUntitled, 1955Gouache on cardboard
49.6 x 48 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Contact Gallery
Untitled by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork
Hélio OiticicaUntitled, 1958Gouache on cardboard
29.2 x 33 cm
Lisson Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork
Hélio OiticicaUntitled, 1958Gouache on cardboard
50.2 x 67.6 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Contact Gallery
Relevo espacial yellow A21 by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork
Hélio OiticicaRelevo espacial yellow A21, 1959/2012Acrylic paint on wood
120 x 160 x 14 cm
Galeria Nara Roesler Contact Gallery
Hélio Oiticica wearing P22, Cape 18 “Nirvana” - Parangolé by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork
Hélio OiticicaHélio Oiticica wearing P22, Cape 18 “Nirvana” - Parangolé, 1968Inkjet print on Matte Fibre Hahnemuhle
40 x 30 cm
Galeria Nara Roesler Contact Gallery
Metaesquema MET 265 by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork
Hélio OiticicaMetaesquema MET 265, 1958Gouache on paperboard
29.9 x 39.1 cm
Galeria Nara Roesler Contact Gallery

Hélio Oiticica Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, AAA – Anthology of Art and Architecture at Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo
Open Now
22 August–10 October 2020 Group Exhibition AAA – Anthology of Art and Architecture Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo, São PauloSão Paulo
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, RED at Galerie Lelong & Co. New York, New York
Closed
10 April–8 May 2020 Group Exhibition RED Galerie Lelong & Co. New YorkOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Visions of Brazil: Reimagining Modernity from Tarsila to Sonia at Blum & Poe, New York
Closed
30 April–22 June 2019 Group Exhibition Visions of Brazil: Reimagining Modernity from Tarsila to Sonia Blum & Poe, New YorkNew York

Hélio Oiticica Represented By

Lisson Gallery contemporary art gallery in Lisson Street, London, United Kingdom Lisson Gallery East Hampton, London, New York, Shanghai

Hélio Oiticica In Ocula Magazine

Visions of Brazil: Reimagining Modernity from Tarsila to Sonia Ocula Report Visions of Brazil: Reimagining Modernity from Tarsila to Sonia By Fawz Kabra, New York

Bridging almost a century of Brazilian art, Visions of Brazil: Reimagining Modernity from Tarsila to Sonia at Blum & Poe in New York (30 April–22 June 2019), hosted in collaboration with Mendes Wood DM, offers a rereading of Brazilian Modernism through the works of artists practising at different times, from the 20th century through to...

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Hélio Oiticica In Related Press

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Too Big for a Booth? Art Basel Still Has Room for Your Art Related Press Too Big for a Booth? Art Basel Still Has Room for Your Art 11 June 2019, The New York Times

Since it was begun in 2000, Unlimited, which is offered only at the fair in Basel, has proved to be a particularly popular draw. Most people attending the fair–there were 95,000 last year–are expected to visit the section, not only for the sheer wow factor of the works, but also for the relevance of its offerings. 'I often tell people that...

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Hélio Oiticica: Spatial Relief and Drawings 1955–59 Related Press Hélio Oiticica: Spatial Relief and Drawings 1955–59 11 December 2018, The Brooklyn Rail

Hélio Oiticica (1937 – 1980) is a now integral part of the New York art scene, in large measure thanks to his 2017 retrospective at the Whitney, To Organize Delirium, which provided New Yorkers with an opportunity to experience him in full.

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Cool Heat: An Art Outlaw Who Still Simmers Related Press Cool Heat: An Art Outlaw Who Still Simmers 13 July 2017, 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...

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Tripping Through Hélio Oiticica’s Mythical World Related Press Tripping Through Hélio Oiticica’s Mythical World 3 January 2017, 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...

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Hélio Oiticica In Video & Audio

Hélio Oiticica and the Tropicália Movement | TateShots Related Video & Audio Hélio Oiticica and the Tropicália Movement | TateShots 15 February 2019, Tate

Discover the artist Hélio Oiticica – one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.The Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica challenged the traditional boundaries of art. He made the viewer an active participant in his work, now seen as a major moment in the development of contemporary art.

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Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium Related Video & Audio Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium 15 September 2017, Whitney Museum of American Art

Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium is the first full-scale U.S. retrospective in two decades of the Brazilian artist's work.

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