Whitney Museum of American Art
New York City, NY
Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980) is arguably the most influential Latin American artist of the post–World War II period and is recognized for his significant contributions to the development of contemporary art. A relentless innovator always pushing the traditional boundaries of art, Oiticica moved rapidly and radically from early works influenced by European Modernism to large-scale installations meant to be experienced. This exhibition offers the first retrospective in the United States of the Brazilian artist’s groundbreaking and influential achievements.
Demonstrating the great breadth of the artist’s oeuvre, the exhibition begins in the Jean and Steven Goldman Prints and Drawings Galleries with the adventurously elegant works on paper from early in Oiticica’s career. These progressively dynamic compositions paved the way for his later liberation of painting from a flat plane (1955–1958). By 1959, Oiticica’s painterly-sculptural Spatial Reliefs and Nuclei broke free of the wall and entered the space of the viewer. The Nuclei, composed of panels suspended from the ceiling, created areas through which the viewer would walk. His later installations, designed to engage the senses and promote creative thought, continued to expand the interaction between viewer and artwork. Among the most ambitious, Eden (1969) encourages viewers to pass through water and leaves and relax in tents and beds made of straw. This exhibition is the first anywhere to treat these later works in depth, acknowledging Oiticica’s New York years (1971–1978) and his return to Brazil (1978–1980) as discrete periods within his oeuvre.
Throughout his brief but energetic career, Oiticica seamlessly melded formal and social concerns in his art, seeking to be internationally relevant and, at the same time, specifically Brazilian. Above all, he aimed to communicate to his audiences the deep pleasure and satisfaction inherent in creative work. That aim reached fruition as his career advanced and his work took on an increasingly immersive nature, transforming the viewer from a spectator to an active participant or “participator”—as visitors to Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium will discover. In addition to viewing the original works on display, visitors will be invited to wear and manipulate exhibition copies of the artist’s interactive works.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalogue, Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, covers the artist’s entire career in essays by authors from the United States and Latin America, and is the most comprehensive study to date of Hélio Oiticica, one of the world’s foremost practitioners of neo-concretism,. Internationally recognized for his innovative and participatory work, in his ingeniously constructed works Hélio Oiticica revolutionized the idea of interactive art.
This heavily-illustrated volume captures the excitement and complexity of Oiticica’s paintings, sculptures, and installations. Insightful essays emphasize his little-known New York period between 1971 and 1978. Thoroughly exploring Oiticica’s most acclaimed works, such as the Parangolés and his groundbreaking installation Tropicália, this book also examines his involvement with music, literature, and his response to politics and the social environment in Brazil. From his immersion in 1960s counterculture to his life and work in New York City and final return to Rio de Janeiro, this catalog charts the development of an utterly original talent whose work is both wide-ranging and thoroughly engaging.