Fulfilling its commitment to sharing its celebrated Adolpho Leirner Collection with international audiences, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
, will send the collection to Zurich for its debut European presentation at Haus Konstruktiv this November. The Leirner Collection is the most prestigious assemblage of post-World War II Brazilian artencompassing the finest example of geometric abstraction in paintings, constructions, drawings, posters, and graphic materials by Brazil's foremost artists, and yielding singular insight into the history of international Modernism. After acquiring the complete collection in 2007, the MFAH organized "Dimensions of Constructive Art" in Brazil, a groundbreaking, comprehensive exhibition of the material. Following a successful American presentation, the MFAH will send the exhibition to Haus Konstruktiv from November 19, 2009 through February 21, 2010, where it will be installed under the direction of Haus Konstruktiv director Dorothea Strauss.
"The Leirner Collection represents a vital chapter of Modernism which has historically been unavailable to international audiences and scholars," said MFAH director Dr. Peter C. Marzio. "When we acquired this unparalleled collection in 2007, it was with our full commitment to sharing these works broadly. We are particularly happy to work with Haus Konstruktiv to introduce the collection to Switzerland, the birthplace of Max Bill and other Concrete artists whose work and ideas were closely linked to those of the Brazilian avant garde."
Conceived by Mari Carmen Ramírez, the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the MFAH, "Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection" traces the development of Brazilian constructive art from early experiments in geometric abstraction by Cícero Dias (1907-2003) and the influential teacher Samson Flexor (1907-1971), through the most cutting-edge and avant-garde artists and groups of the 1950s: the Grupo Ruptura in São Paulo, and Grupo Frente in Rio de Janeiro. Artists represented in the collection include Waldemar Cordeiro (1925-1973), Mauricio Nogueira Lima, the Brothers César (1939-) and Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980), and Lygia Pape (1929-2004). The Neo-concrete movement is also explored through works by Lygia Clark (1920-1988), and pieces by independent practitioners: Alfredo Volpi (1896-1988), Mira Schendel (1919-1988), and Sergio Camargo (1930-1990), among others.
The presentation is a major milestone in the MFAH's long-term commitment to sharing the collection with broad international audiences. Select works have been presented occasionally in Europe, but this November marks the first time that the entire collection has been exhibited outside of Brazil or the United States. Haus Konstruktiv is the home of the Foundation for Constructive and Concrete Art, which is the only institution and one of the first in Europe to promote constructive, concrete, and conceptual art and design.
The son of Polish Jewish immigrants who arrived in Brazil in the 1930s, Adolpho Leirner was born in 1935 in the city of São Paulo. In 1953 he went to England to study textile engineering and design. During his four-year stay, he became acquainted with the legacy of the international Constructivist movements of the first half of the 20th-century. At the same time, he developed a passion for architecture and design. Upon his return to Brazil in the late 1950s, Leirner focused his attention on Brazilian decorative arts and contemporary art. In 1961 he bought the first work of what would later constitute his unique collection: "Em vermelho" (In Red, 1958) by the artist Milton Dacosta (1915-1988). Naturally drawn to Brazilian constructivism, he noticed its disappearance from the public's attention in the 1960s, as the emergence of figure-based trends such as Pop Art flourished. At that point, Leirner decided to concentrate his collecting efforts on Brazilian geometric abstraction. Largely through his direct contact with living artists and influential dealers, he was able to systematically gather exemplary works of these key movements in his country.