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MAM Brings Back the First Exhibition of Concrete Art
Hércules Barsotti, Tres Brancos, 1959.

SAO PAULO.- An exhibition accomplished by Museu de Art Moderna de Sao Paulo in 1956 is recreated in the two rooms of the Museum, presenting works of 26 concrete artists and poets besides pieces of 27 designers; an intense research rescues an exhibition that was decisive to shape the current Brazilian art.

The Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo opensed the exhibition “Concreta ‘56. A raiz da forma” (Concrete 56 - The root of the shape) with curatorship of Lorenzo Mammi (arts), André Stolarski (design) and João Bandeira (poetry). The exhibition, opened until December 3rd, commemorates 50 years of the I Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta (1st National Exhibition of Concrete Art), organized by MAM, located at that time on Rua 7 de Abril, in downtown, from December 4 to 8, 1956, and also presented in 1957 in Ministry of Culture, in Rio de Janeiro. The exhibition is sponsored by Telefonica and has Banco Safra´s cultural support.

The exhibition of arts and poetry, seen in the original exhibition, occupies part of the Grande Sala (Main Room), while Sala Paulo Figueiredo presents the production of design from 1948-1966.The exhibition also presents in the Grande Sala, the art produced by the same artists in the immediately subsequent years. Works of 26 artists, being 15 painters, one designer, one illustrator and six poets, besides pieces from 27 designers compose the exhibition. Paintings, sculptures, photos, poetries, advertising ads, posters, visual identities, logos, design projects, books and records covers, furniture, folders etc. are also exhibited. The museumgraphy belongs to André Stolarski. MAM reserves space for the room of the original exhibition. The unfolding occupies the remaining space of the Grande Sala. The distribution of the works follows the original: paintings are intercalated with poetries.

According to curatorship, the exhibition is important for several reasons,: (1) it presents the “DNA” of Brazilian art, poetry and design, which will be elucidating for new generations; (2) it brings a new thinking about an important moment of the history of art; (3) it brings back a year of intense modernization in the country (the settlement of the first automobile industry - Volkswagen, the release of Brasilia’s urbanistic project, the beginning of Juscelino Kubitschek government). During the exhibition, a catalog will be published with design of Alexandre Wollner, an important name for understanding the concretism and the design in the country.

According to the curator, to recreate this historical exhibition hard work was demanded and it took several months for its conclusion. At first, the documentation on the exposed works was scarce: an invitation listing the participant artists, a folding of the magazine Arquitetura e Decoração (Architecture and Decoration) issue 20, November/December 1956) with photos of the exhibition, without fidelity to the exposed material, newspapers clipping, etc.

The file belonging to artist Hermelindo Fiaminghi, kept by his family, was decisive for the research: 18 photos of the exhibition in São Paulo. The research concluded that some works were lost and some others were not identified. The exhibition presents some re-creations. On the other hand, according to the curator, works from Geraldo de Barros, Maurício Nogueira Lima, Franz Weissmann and Alexandre Wollner, out of the visual art circuit for many years, were found.

The visitors may question the presence of an artist not present in the original exhibition: Iberê Camargo, born in Rio Grande do Sul. Lorenzo Mammi justifies his presence: “at the end of the 50´s, Iberê began to paint and to carve his reels. There is nothing stranger to the concrete aesthetics than Iberê´s anarchical individualism [since the artist's brushstroke edges the chaotic and disordered]. However, those serial forms (above all in illustrations, where there is no weight of the pictorial paste) do not stop commenting the concrete controversy – at least, to remind that besides the reason’s objectivity and the immediate experience of the world, memory also organizes the things in series. The synthesis of the reels would not be possible if Iberê did not have it in front of him as a wall to control the concrete proposal.”

“Concreta ‘56. A raiz da forma” also presents to the public, according to the curatorship, another peculiar historical context. “The months, the weeks immediately after the exhibition were a very important theater of changes [in the artists' works].” That is the reason why there are works produced after the 1956 exhibition. Many artists adopted productive and extremely different conducts from what was presented in the exhibition organized by MAM. For instance, Volpi abandons the concrete experience and returns to the handmade description of the world. The exhibition still marks the controversy held at that time among São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro productions, generating intense debates in newspapers. In Lorenzo Mammi's evaluation, the original exhibition generated such controversy that contributed to unleash the neo-concretism and the non-object theory, formulated by critic and poet Ferreira Gullar.

Presenting the exhibition, Lorenzo Mammi writes: “After 50 years, more than to take position on one side or the other, it is necessary to understand the importance that this discussion had for maturing the Brazilian artistic environment. In fact, a field of fundamental subjects for the whole subsequent Brazilian art was created. The possible directions and alternatives were defined, the tone of the artistic debate for the following decade was set – in fact, a tone recognizable until today in most of the Brazilian production including the one, seemingly, apart from the poetic concrete”.

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