b. 1937
- d. 1980
  • Brazil
Turnover 2023
Record Sale
$USD 6.593

Hélio Oiticica began his artistic studies at MAM Rio as a student on Ivan Serpa’s Free Painting Course in 1954. At first, his works dialogued with the concretist experiments of the time. The artist took part in the Frente Group between 1955 and 1956 and was one of the signatories of the Neo-Concrete Manifesto in 1959. He was also a member of the New Brazilian Objectivity, and with all three groups, he took part in historic exhibitions at MAM Rio. From then on, Oiticica established the body as the driving force behind his work, which also opened up to the context of the street and everyday life, pointing to a relationship between art and life. For him, the spectator was, in fact, a participant placed to circulate and experience the space, leaving aside the contemplative posture in front of the work of art.

During this period, the artist created some of his most important works, such as Bilaterals, Spatial Reliefs, Nuclei, Penetrables and Bolides. In 1964, Oiticica joined the Estação Primeira de Mangueira samba school in Rio de Janeiro, where he became a passista – a turning point in the artist’s life and work. The activity made him deepen his reflections on aesthetic experiences beyond the visual arts, as well as the traditional plastic arts, incorporating bodily and sensitive relationships into his work through dance and rhythm. In 1965, Oiticica took part in the Opinião 65 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, considered a milestone in the history of Brazilian art. It was the first time he presented the Parangolés. The covers were worn by the artist and by samba dancers and instrumentalists from Mangueira, who arrived at MAM Rio in a kind of “festive procession”. Prevented from entering, they held the “obra festa” outside the museum. Two years later, in 1967, Oiticica returned to MAM Rio for the “New Brazilian Objectivity” exhibition and presented the penetrable Tropicália, the route of which, according to the artist, was very reminiscent of hillwalking.

Experimental and critical, the work inspired the name of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil’s 1968 album and the important artistic and cultural movement led by the Bahians. That same year, during the harshest period of the military dictatorship in Brazil, Caetano displayed the flag “Seja marginal seja herói”, written by Oiticica, at a concert in the Sucata nightclub in Rio de Janeiro. The flag was seized and the show banned by the Federal Police. In the 1970s, Hélio Oiticica spent most of his time in New York, where he received a scholarship from the Guggenheim Foundation. During this period, he experimented with super-8 films and did dozens of environmental projects, such as the Cosmococas, in partnership with Neville D’Almeida. These creations were part of what the artist called “quasi-cinema”, immersing the body in the image. Oiticica returned to Brazil in 1978, when he dedicated himself to collective events and exhibitions. The artist died in March 1980 after suffering a stroke.


Other works

62 cm x
148 cm


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