Lyz Parayzo, work of the series
Lyz Parayzo, work from the "Bixinha" series, 2022. Photo: Filipe Berndt

More than studying the hegemony that the constructive aspects – the concrete and neo-concrete movements – achieved within the scope of local art criticism and history, I am interested here in listing some dialogues that certain artists proposed to have with them, relativizing their assumptions. Bringing up these deviations from the established concrete and neo-concrete “norms” is, in my view, contributing to the debate on art in the country, questioning crystallized interpretations.

If neoconcretism must be understood as a dissidence from concretism, it was certainly not the only one that harbored strategies to deconstruct the postulates of that movement. On the other hand, its alternative character in relation to concretism did not prevent it from becoming an object of criticism from artists who doubted the supposedly libertarian effectiveness of some of its propositions, as well as its rapid rise to the status of “the” artistic manifestation. Brazilian and contemporary.

If the expression popcreto was conceived by Augusto de Campos to define the process of “semantization” through which Waldemar Cordeiro’s production passed – after the artist had overcome the limitations of concretism that he himself had fought to make prevail – the same term can be used to define the least part of the production of other artists working in São Paulo in the early 1960s. I remember here Maurício Nogueira Lima, also from a concrete past: his work don't go left (1964), structured from the modernist framework so prized by the Concretists, emerged contaminated by the political-ideological clash then waged in the country, putting into question the idealizing postulates of Concretism.

 

Many works produced by Nelson Leirner in that same decade could also be thought of as popcrets, since they also undermined concrete rationalism. As Aracy Amaral has already alluded to, the use of industrialized materials and objects by Leirner[1], the “base” rationality perceived in his works at the time, are also affected by a cunning impregnated with irony. Those works of his, instead of projecting a becoming for the spectator and for society, established the disarray of the here and now (You are part II, from 1964, is an example of this situation).

Similar disturbances in the reign of Brazilian constructive trends caused the works produced by Waltercio Caldas in the 1970s. Critics of the idealized dimension of art, so esteemed by the concrete people, and the ideology of “participatory art” by the neo-concretists, Caldas’ “devices” meant ( and still signify) a watershed in the scope of contemporary Brazilian art[2].

During the 1970s, the series cartemas, by Aloisio Magalhães. With the series, Magalhães proposed the possibility for anyone to produce works of art from the break with the traditional concept of “artist”, not by the programmed calculation of concretes nor by the theatricalization of the life of neo-concretists, but through the manipulation of certain objects. of mass society (in this case, postcards).

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If the works cited constituted criticisms of the concrete and neo-concrete formulations, other remarks that were added to them should not be ignored, however without any type of negativity, on the contrary. I am referring to the productions of Rubem Valentim and Emanoel Araújo who, from the 1960s onwards, paid attention to the existence of a constructive intelligence within the scope of Afro-Brazilian visuality. This visuality, with its simple presence, broadened, in turn, the understanding of what could become that “constructive will” in Brazil, adding to it a type of experience that until then had survived on the margins of white and hegemonic Brazilian art. .

However, this other path pointed out by the works of Valentim and Araújo does not seem to have extrapolated the limits of the productions of both. Morto Rubem Valentim, his work remains waiting not only for scholars who focus on its potential for meaning[3], but also other artists who adopt it as a parameter, whether positive or negative (it doesn't matter). Nowadays, it seems, this aspect is processed only in the continuity of Emanoel Araújo's production, always reaching significant moments of aesthetic and artistic interest.

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The criticism of the constructive aspects that Nelson Leirner produced in the 1960s was not a unique act in his career. Against the process of transforming those aspects into beacons and parameters for Brazilian art, in the 1990s the artist produced a series entitled rural constructivism, composed of works that remake, in bovine leather, emblematic works of those aspects. Twenty years later, they are still significant for two reasons:

1 – The concrete and neoconcrete movements stabilized at the top of the pantheon of local art;

2 – Would the association between those aspects and bovine leather be an allegory of the possible convergence between art and the great capital of the country? In other words: agribusiness, in addition to being pop, could be popcrete too?

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This inventory is also of interest to the productions of three artists: Luiz Hermano, Shirley Paes Leme and Gustavo Rezende who, between the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the new century, developed productions that dealt with the limits, both of the constructive aspects (and not just those acclimatized in Brazil) as well as certain individual poetics derived from them. The series of works by Hermano and Paes Leme are from the late 1990s, in which the artists question some of the constructive proposals, based on works that, by undermining the perfect configuration of the cube and other polyhedra, question the rationality that celebrates them. The “industrial” logic intertwined with that “artisanal” synthesize the country's contradictions, between designing for the new and moving into the archaic.

Gustavo Rezende, in turn, in 2000, produced some works in which, by problematizing one of the main tools of plastic constructive thinking – the module –, he “semantized” the local constructive tradition from a sarcasm that went beyond mere irony. In this sense, it is worth reviewing his works Hero e Taj Mahal and the possibility of love in the age of the epistemological cube (two versions) – the latter having as a module a box of Prozac.

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Recently, the artist Lyz Parayzo develops her bixinhas, transforming the Bichos by Lygia Clark – produced for the peaceful relationship between spectator and work of art – in weapons of attack. Your bixinhas, in turn, are mixed with the artist's other works, beautiful and dangerous adornments to seduce and protect themselves from the protagonists of the transphobic culture of Rio de Janeiro.

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Closing this list, we highlight the productions of two artists more recently introduced in the main current of Brazilian art: Rosana Paulino and Jaime Lauriano.

In Paulino, one can see, since memory wall (1994/2015), how it contaminates the modernist grid and its most practiced formal modality since the pop and minimal – works produced from the juxtaposition of modules –, introducing in each element of memory wall indexes of an experience full of historicity, visible not only in the images used by the artist in each module, but also in the construction of each one of them. More recently, Paulino has gone straight to the point with the series Brazilian-style geometry e Brazilian geometry arrives in tropical paradise, both from 2018. In these collages/monotypes in digital prints, the artist “semantizes” the Concretist/Neo-Concretist order, impregnating it with images from flora, fauna and the universe of people who once lived enslaved in Brazil.

In turn, since 2017 Jaime Lauriano has been developing a series entitled concrete experience, collages from various materials and supports. In Concrete experience #7, for example, emulates concrete and/or neoconcrete solutions to discuss the history of enslaved black peoples. In Concrete experience #1, 2017, the artist, when operating on the performance photo hand dialogues (1966), by Lygia Clark, brings another possibility for the “semantization” of emblem-images of neoconcretism.

At the end of this list, I pay attention to the fact that the last three artists mentioned come from universes that until recently were distant from the universe of visual arts in Brazil. Lyz Parayzo is a transgender artist, Rosana Paulino and Jaime Lauriano are Afro-descendant artists.

In this decade, the three managed to force the doors of the local artistic environment, mobilized not only by the power of their productions, but also by the novelty character of the market and – we cannot forget – by the climate of historical revisionism, of tolerance and acceptance of the “other” in which we have lived in Brazil in recent years. But, despite the apparent absorption of his productions, the heavy load of content that they brought into an art history only concerned with the search for formal purification, the expression of the artist's "I" - or even as pure experience -, has not yet been fully digested.

The stories that these three artists tell, despite being accepted, are disturbing. The negative criticism of the canons of contemporary Brazilian art as well. And the question that remains is this: in these darker times that we are entering today, will these propositions continue to be tolerated?

Anyway, the list above (despite its lacunar character) demonstrates how it is possible to trace a history of contemporary art in Brazil in which the dissident or alien to dogmas character predominates. Now it is to see if this story will have the strength to continue.


[1] - art from São Paulo (1998). IN AMARAL, Aracy. Texts from the Tropic of Capricorn. Articles and essays🇧🇷 São Paulo: Editora 34, 2006, vol. 3 p. 303.

[2] – On these works by Waltercio Caldas, read: BRITO, Ronaldo. Waltercio Caldas Jr. Gadgets. Rio de Janeiro: GBM Editoria de Arte, 1979.

[3] – A first and big step in this direction was taken by MASP, which, in the second half of 2018, held the exhibition Rubem Valentim: Afro-Atlantic constructions, which presented the public with an important overview of the artist's work. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalog in which some of the main texts written on the artist's work during his life were gathered and, at the same time, unpublished essays written by new scholars.

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