This article describes the connections between the neo-concrete works produced by Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, especially in terms of their rejection of the traditional two-dimensional pictorial format in order to create works in real space that prompt the active involvement of the viewer. Beginning in 1954—when he was a member of the Grupo Frente led by Ivan Serpa—writing about what he was doing became an integral part of his creative process. Oiticica did not sign the Manifesto Neoconcreto in 1959, but the following year he took part in the Segunda Exposição Neoconcreta, and became one of its main spokesmen in the areas of the theoretical and practical expressions of the constructive avant-garde.
Hélio Oiticica (1937–80) was a Brazilian Neo-Concrete artist. He started studying painting with Ivan Serpa in 1954 at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro. He later joined the Grupo Frente and the Neo-Concrete movement. In addition to his geometric paintings, which he worked on while he was studying with Serpa and was a member of the Grupo Frente, Oiticica produced performance and participatory art. His Parangolés (1964)—capes made with fabrics and recycled materials—were worn by the Mangueira Samba School during their performances. Oiticica also created immersive spaces, such as Nucleus (1959–60), which was an installation constructed from suspended painted wooden slats inspired by the Constructivism of Piet Mondrian. In 1967 Oiticica created the immersive environment Tropicália at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. Tropicália was an installation consisting of rooms with plants and materials such as water, sand and stones, a parrot, a television set, and various other elements that were representative of Brazilian popular culture. The environment was designed to promote sensory stimulation. Oiticica applied the same principles to Eden, the installation he created in 1969 at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The name Tropicália was used by Brazilian musicians to describe a new style that combined international music and pop with traditional Brazilian music. The term “Tropicália” was absorbed into popular Brazilian culture and came to signify a uniquely Brazilian essence. In 1970 Oiticica took part in the group exhibition Information at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
For more examples of Oiticica’s thoughts on Brazilian art in the late 1960s and early 1970s, see the essay “Esquema geral da nova objetividade” , and the article “Aparecimento do suprasensorial na arte brasileira” .
For a critical review of the international career of Lygia Clark (1920–88), see the essay “Lygia Clark: In Search of the Body” , written by the English curator and art critic Guy Brett, who followed Clark’s and Oiticica’s careers from their very early days. The Brazilian critic Ferreira Gullar also discussed Clark’s work in “Do quadro ao não objeto” .