Like most countries, much of Brazilian art seems to be located in and produced by artists living in the largest urban centers, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Geometria Impura, a traveling show from Belo Horizonte aims to shorten the distance from satellites to center. Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica in Rio de Janeiro is the latest exhibition stop, which was inaugurated in Belo Horizonte and previously exhibited in Recife and Salvador. The exhibition is tied together with frayed threads referencing the Brazilian Constructivist history, which appears to have a stronghold in Belo Horizonte where the exhibition artists are based. Looking to a modernist movement that sought to present universal ideas through geometrical abstraction, it is the poetic fissures, contaminations, and deviations to the abstraction of the works that drags the modern into a contemporary space.
Some highlights of the exhibition include Rodrigo Borges’ Estratégia da aranha (Strategy of the spider), which makes use of common and industrial materials (a legacy of the constructivists) – cardboard boxes and colored adhesive tape create a vivid and rough geometric explosion into the architectural space of the gallery.
Pedro Motta’s arquipélago 2 (archipelago 2), a series of photographs of man-made “islands” are, perhaps, the most “impure” artworks in the show. A typology of found, industrially created sculptures recall the photographic work of Hilla and Bernd Becher. These humorous monuments to practicality and human progress acted upon the Brazilian countryside are a significant departure from geometric abstraction.
The works of Renato Madureira are a material investigation of ruptures. Black paint drips down the white gallery wall, it’s origin is a fissure in the wall itself. Sculpturally, Madureira confuses the sensations of rigidness and flexibility as metal sheets clamped together allow the force of gravity to to act as both a means and a material in the piece.
Júnia Penna’s compartimento (compartment) reaches back to the Penetrables of Hélio Oiticica, an homage to the artist who’s significance for Brazilian art resulted in the creation of art center which houses this current exhibition. In contrast to Oiticica’s use of materials that reference the informal and make-shift qualities of favela (slum) architecture, Penna’s penetrable structure is produced from formalized, industrial materials of MDF, formica, and glass. Here, the raw and vernacular are replaced with the rigid and prefab. As Oiticica’s own work evolved from clean geometric investigations to a more performative and participatory practice, compartimento seems to by cycling back. Although this appears to occupy a space that has more affinity with the constructivist ties to European geometric purity, it may actually be a mirror to the encroaching social and architectural development. In this context, Oiticica’s PN 2 reminds us with its inscription “A Pureza e um Mito” (Purity is a Myth), to question the very definition of purity.
Geometria Impura runs from December 11th through February 27th at Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica in Rio de Janeiro.