March 01 - April 02 2022
Leon Tovar Gallery's display is a multi-generational presentation that incorporates artwork from towering figures in the history of twentieth-century Brazilian art. In this dynamic display, visitors will see artwork that is characterized by a radical sense of openness—whether this openness constitutes a reconsideration and adaptation of European Constructivism, or the removal of the artistic object from its usual isolation in order to open it up onto the world.
Featuring works by: Sergio de Camargo, Lygia Clark, Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Maurício Nogueira Lima, Almir Mavignier, Helio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Luiz Sacilotto, Alfredo Volpi.
Leon Tovar Gallery celebrates the highly experimental and eclectic artistic practices of Brazil during the mid-twentieth century. Whether reimagining European Constructivist currents or radically reconfiguring the relationship between spectator and artistic object, Brazilian artists challenged the notion of the insular work of art, transforming it into a vehicle in which rigid boundaries—both national and art historical—were powerfully transgressed. In bringing together Concrete and Neoconcrete practitioners, as well as those who do not neatly conform to these famous Brazilian movements, the Gallery showcases the many artistic breakthroughs spearheaded by some of the twentieth century’s most important artists.
During late 1940s and early 1950s, Brazil’s rich history of figurative painting gave way to Concrete practices, partly stemming from the country's industrialization and the resulting desire of artists to foster an aesthetic that productively worked within this new context. In a language defined by rigorous logic and utopian aspirations, artists drew on the Constructivism of Max Bill and the Bauhaus and applied them to their own ends in an attempt to integrate art into this rapidly changing society. Artists of the São Paulo-based Grupo Ruptura, like Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Luiz Sacilotto, and Maurício Nogueira Lima, were important figures in the development of this aesthetic, creating crisp and clean geometric compositions that reflected the country’s industrialization.
A second set of Concrete artists—Grupo Frente based in Rio de Janeiro—soon became disenchanted with what they perceived to be an overly rigorous approach to artistic creation. Seeking new ways to merge art and life, and open up the experience of art to senses beyond the purely visual, many of the artists in this group became prominent figures in the Neoconcrete movement. Their production, as the scholar Jacqueline Barnitz states, did not completely forsake geometry and Constructivism, but instead changed the terms through which spectators engaged with the work of art. “Artists adapted concrete art's geometric shapes to neoconcrete purposes by transforming them into organic three-dimensional objects to be manipulated by spectators, or penetrable environments to be walked through and experienced sensorially.” Many of the works on view in the Gallery by artists like Helio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, and Aluísio Carvão, reveal early attempts to infuse Concrete art with a sense of the unpredictable and organic.
But outside the parameters established by these important movements are artists whose respective practices exist at an aesthetic distance from that of the Concrete and Neoconcrete practitioners. Artists like Alfredo Volpi transgressed the non-referential language of geometry by incorporating the signs and symbols of Brazil. By the 1950s, Volpi was creating artworks that were celebrated by the Concrete artists, even as his brush strokes remained visible and—crucially—his colors and shapes were inspired by the facades of houses as well as flags and banners. Other artists like Mira Schendel and Sergio Camargo operated independently of the Neo concrete group, even as their respective artworks continuously unfold in time, creating art that cultivates an active dialogue with the viewer and the surrounding space.
Taken together, Leon Tovar Gallery's display is a multi-generational presentation that incorporates artwork from towering figures in the history of twentieth-century Brazilian art. In this dynamic display, visitors will see artwork that is characterized by a radical sense of openness—whether this openness constitutes a reconsideration and adaptation of European Constructivism, or the removal of the artistic object from its usual isolation in order to open it up onto the world.