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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: Hélio Oiticica, HO in Motion, Lisson Gallery, Shanghai (2 September–30 October 2021) © Estate of Hélio Oiticica. Courtesy Lisson Gallery, Shanghai.

Hélio Oiticica Featured Artworks

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Untitled (Metaesquema) by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Hélio OiticicaUntitled (Metaesquema), 1958Gouache on cardboard
55.1 x 64 cm
Lisson Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled (Grupo Frente) by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Hélio OiticicaUntitled (Grupo Frente), 1955Gouache on cardboard
47.3 x 46 cm
Lisson Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Hélio OiticicaUntitled, 1958Gouache on cardboard
30 x 33 cm
Lisson Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Hélio OiticicaUntitled, 1958Gouache on cardboard
30 x 33 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Contact Gallery
Untitled by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Hélio OiticicaUntitled, 1955Gouache on cardboard
49.6 x 48 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Contact Gallery
Relevo espacial yellow A21 by Hélio Oiticica contemporary artwork mixed media
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 photography
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 painting
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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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

In Ocula Advisory

Hélio Oiticica In Related Press

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Hélio Oiticica In Video & Audio

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