Geometry is the matrix of the work of Almir da Silva Mavignier, an artist from Rio de Janeiro who died earlier this month in Hamburg, where he lived. He is one of the seminal names of Brazilian geometric abstraction and, with Mário Pedrosa, Ivan Serpa and Abraham Palatnik, he created the constructive art core of Rio de Janeiro, in the late 1940s.

His natural approach to geometry begins in Brazil, when he problematizes the rigidity and gestural interpretation of the inflexible format of the movement, to which he was linked all his life. I remember that in 1987, when I visited Mavignier in Hamburg, Germany, with Ana Mae Barbosa and the critic Reynaldo Roels, in their home studio, I understood Mavignier's universe, the visual and linguistic register inspired by a lyrical, clean and aseptic structure. His body movement, his simple but refined way of receiving and speaking Portuguese without an accent, despite being in Germany for more than 50 years, all seemed to be an extension of his elegant work. Like this Geraldo de Barros e Alexander Wollner, Mavignier also attended and taught at the Escola Superior da Forma, in Ulm, where Max Bill, awarded at the 1st Bienal de São Paulo in 1951, was his teacher.

Talking about Mavignier's production requires analytical imagination. For him, art is like an eye with a retina full of angles, lines, points, which illustrate a formal perfectionism rarely seen in Brazilian art. His trajectory began in 1946 in Rio de Janeiro, where he studied painting with Árpád Szenes and, five years later, he already exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo, where he came into contact with the works of William BaumeisterRichard Paul LohseCamille Graeser e Verena Loewensberg that strongly influence it. Your interest in outsiders brought him closer to the psychoanalyst Nise da Silveira and, between 1946 and 1951, he set up a studio at the psychiatric hospital of Engenho de Dentro, in Rio. Living with these patients reinforces his idea that creative fantasy is born within the individual. In the early years, Mavignier produced abstract works, developed between geometric form and organic figuration. The experience with Nise da Silveira brings him closer to the critic Mário Pedrosa and the artists Ivan Serpa and Abraham Palatnik, which radically changes his work. Mavignier lets himself be influenced by Pedrosa's thesis The Influence of Gestalt Theory on the Work of Art that makes him understand that the content of a form is not found in its association with forms of nature. “This knowledge allowed me to abandon a naturalistic painting and start a painting of concrete research of forms free of associations”.

A natural destination for many artists at the time, in 1951 Mavignier moved to Paris and, the following year, to Zurich, where he met Max Bill, who would take over the direction of the famous Faculty of Design in Ulm. At that time it seems that his essence was dissatisfaction. A contained energy, the desire to discover the new, seemed to take hold of Mavignier, who had already left Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Zurich and decided to move to Ulm. He was discouraged by Max Bill, who believed that the small town would be a huge challenge for a young man who had just left the effervescent Paris of the 50s. Max Bill said that “living in Ulm is for a new post-war German generation that was separate from European culture and not for romantic artists living in Paris”.

Determined, Mavignier didn't listen to him, went there and proved him wrong. Easily adapts to the slow pace of the city, becomes a good student of Max Bill, Josef AlbersMax Bense, among others, later becomes a teacher and makes a name for himself as an artist. He later transfers to Hamburg where he is invited to teach at the Faculty of Art. As a graphic designer, he is notable for the production of posters, which he starts when he studies with Max Bill, in which he incorporates new formal research. In the late 50s, these posters took on a “modular” character, as he defined them, and in several of them he used repetition to transform compositional and chromatic elements into mathematical constants.

In 1958, Mavignier approached Grupo Zero, which had a branch in Germany. He participates in some projects with its members and, a year later, creates his own studio in Ulm and stands out especially as a graphic designer. Mavignier remained in the city until 1958 when he was already a teacher at the famous school. They are from that time punctual images, which seem to vibrate optically. From 1960 onwards, the famous “additive posters” appear, each one designed to be presented alongside an impression of itself, establishing a repetitive and continuous work.

In our conversation in Hamburg, Mavignier commented that his time in Ulm and his professors were decisive in developing a work that would later launch him on the international circuit. His work is remarkable for the color that is not just a carrier of meaning. My interest lies in the issues of optical perception that I experience in paintings”.

Mavignier was born on May 1, 1925, in Rio de Janeiro and identified with the date, but without any ideological connotation. “Producing daily keeps me alive.” Time proves that his maxim is true, Mavignier dies at the age of 93 and leaves an extensive work recognized in Brazil and Germany. Contrary to what some art journalists mistakenly insist on stating, some Brazilian artists have participated in the Documenta in Kassel since its creation in 1955 (the year of the so-called German economic miracle) and not only since 1991, as it has been constantly published. . The proof of this is that Mavignier was invited, as a Brazilian, twice, in 1964 and 1968. In the conversation with him and with the book Künstlerlexiton mit Registren zu Documenta 1-8, edited by Verlag Weber & Weidemeyer (Kassel 1987) I discover what few people in the art circuit know. Alberto Di Fiori was already in the inaugural show in 1955; in 1959 Fayga Ostrower and Arthur Luiz Pisa; in 1964 Almir Mavignier; in 1968 Almir Mavignier again and Sérgio Camargo (room set up with the help of Maria Bonomi); and in 1977 León Hirszman (filmmaker).

Mavignier's last most significant exhibitions were at the Museum of Concrete Art in Ingolstadt, in 2003, and a year later at the Museum of Applied Art in Frankfurt with his Additive posters. Dan Galeria de São Paulo, organizes the exhibition Moments of Light, with poster and catalog and awarded by APCA. At its branch in New York, Galeria Nara Roesler showed Almir Mavignier: Privileged Form, in March/April of this year.

With his death, the Ulm Museum organizes a retrospective with works representing various periods by Mavignier, the artist who understood that “the present is so fast that it cannot be missed”.







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