16: HÉLIO OITICICA, Metaesquema 179, 1958
Metaesquema 179, 1958. gouache on cardboard 11 3/4 x 12 7/8 in. (30 x 32.9 cm) Signed, titled, inscribed, and numbered by César Oiticica "Cesar O Projeto Ho N. 459 MET 179" on the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by César Oiticica.
PROVENANCE Private collection, Brazil
Hélio Oiticia is widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential figures of Brazilian art. His monumental legacy spans a wide range of styles, philosophies, and conceptual approaches, demonstrating his boundless originality and life-long experimental impulses. Oiticica’s leading role in his country’s avant-garde artistic movement developed throughout decades of drastic socio-cultural changes and growing political unrest. Consequently, he developed a strong interest in the dynamic relationship between art and society, questioning art’s place and function in its human environment. As Oiticica shifted between aesthetic codes and pictorial mechanisms, his work reflected these paradigm shifts in art’s role with relation to its viewer.At the onset of Oiticica’s career, the Brazilian artistic landscape was dominated by a fervent adherence to realism and representation. The overarching influence of the Mexican muralists was felt far and wide, prompting a younger generation of artists to seek out new visual languages and means of expression. Oiticica was at the forefront of these efforts, and throughout the 1950s and 60s he experimented with divergent theories and artistic affiliations, such as Grupo Frente and Neo-Concretism. The Grupo Frente artists were united in their rejection of figurative and nationalist art, leading many of their members to champion the aesthetic vocabulary of geometric abstraction. Closely linked to the global Concrete movement, they stripped art from any lyrical or symbolic connotations, believing that art should have no meaning other than color, line, and plane. After several years of celebrated exhibitions and great intellectual interaction, some artists began to drift away from these Concrete norms, developing an interest in the subjective and individual experience of art. These artists, who became known as the Neo-Concretists, championed a focus on the freedom of the expressive act. With Oiticica as one of its main proponents, the Neo-Concrete movement highlighted the creative potential of the artist and the incorporation of the spectator in the interpretation of the work. Instead of relying on empiricism and objectivity, they uphold the artwork’s energetic and transformative nature, encouraging the viewer to actively engage and experience it in dynamic ways.Oiticica created his Metaesquemas between 1957 and 1958, that is, in the period between his Grupo Frente and Neo-Concrete affiliations. They embody his inquisitive mind and exploratory spirit during this time, when he was sifting through varying influences and perspectives in order to arrive at his own unique artistic outlook. Oiticica coined the term Metaesquema as a means to describe a work that, although schematic (esquema) in its formal development, is still open to the subjective interpretations inherent to metaphysics (meta). Oiticica was aware that artworks are objects that exist in time and space, and as such they are subject to viewers’ heterogeneous experiences of reality.When looking at the Metaesquemas, our attention is immediately drawn to the geometric qualities of the composition. We are confronted with squares and rectangles on a plane, a strong visual link to the Grupo Frente ideologies. However, on closer inspection, we realize that the geometric shapes are not exactly aligned with each other. The partial dislocations that separate each shape expand the planar surface into the realm of subtle movement and subjective experience. Oiticica’s Metaesquemas are dynamic compositions replete with both formalism and suggestion, articulating the complex and vibrant relationship between art and viewer.
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