From Geometric Abstraction to Neo-Concrete Art: the 2 groups that settled geometric abstraction as a predominant art movement in Brazil

Posted on July - 6 - 2016

Helio Oiticica “Metaesquemas” 1957-58Photo courtesy of:

Helio Oiticica “Metaesquemas” 1957-58Photo courtesy of:

Geometric Abstraction was an international style that originally sprung from Europe at the beginning of the 20th century and spread rapidly to America, where different groups of artists quickly adopted it and made them their own. This assimilation was possible due to the ideas that artists brought home while they had been abroad in the cultural center of Europe, Paris. This new approach to artistic production was especially well taken in Argentina and set forth collectives such as the MADI group, simultaneously becoming an extremely trendy style in its neighboring country, Brazil.

There is an essential occurrence that took place in Brazil, and that was Max Bill’s presence in the São Paulo Biennial where his sculpture Tripartite Unity won the first price. Brazil at that time was entering a new post-war democracy after several years of dictatorship, but would soon reluctantly welcome a new military regime. Nevertheless, the cultural scene during the 50’s and the 60’s was unprecedented in Latin American art and made Brazil an undeniable source of relevant artistic production; such as it is still today.

The Concrete movement, based on the original statements of Van Doesburg, arose in Brazil as a symptom of the political and social situation overtaking the country, as a way to deny the new American influence starting in Brazil and a new short-lived democratic state. The major aspirations of the group were to attain a universal language of communication of pre-formulated ideas based on rational principles, which translated into an autonomous and self-sufficient art. Above all it had substantial interests in geometry and aspired to eliminate any personal gesture.

Lygia Clark

Lydia Clark. Photo courtesy of:

Several Manifestos were written at that time, stating a specific set of rules to create true Concrete works. The first Concrete exhibition was held in 1956, and it was when the Manifesto of Concrete Poetry was presented. It was only a matter of time before differences between the artists arose and consequentially it was in the II National Exhibition of Concrete Art that they were set to light. That break would lead to the formulation of the opposing groups: Grupo Ruptura formed in São Paulo and Grupo Frente based in Rio de Janeiro. The Paulista artist, including Lothar Charoux, Geraldo de Barros, Anatol Wladyslaw, Leopold Haar, Féjer, Luiz Saciloto y Waldemar Cordeiro aimed for a more rational outtake and were quite theoretical in their serial and geometric forms. The Carioca artists, Franz Weissmann, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Hélio Oiticica, Aluísio Galvão, Décio Vieira, on the other hand, heightened subjectivity and placed importance on experimentation and expression.

Although the two groups continued to dominate the artistic scenes of the countries largest cities, they also soon disintegrated and Brazil entered a new military government soon after that was not as interested in artistic expression.

In Grupo Frente the divergent styles of each artist made the group disperse, but gave way to the Neo-Concrete Movement lead by Clark and Oiticica, which would be one of the precursors of Conceptual Art. Today’s art production is in debt to these artists, whom paved the way to new forms of productions through experimentation. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that although Conceptual Art has a strong presence in contemporary production, Geometric Abstraction is still a dominant style in contemporary Latin America production.

By: Gabriela Martínez

Lothar Charoux — Horizontais, 1960 Oil on wood 

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