Tropical Modernism: The First Biennial de São Paulo 1951
University of Brighton
Tropical Modernism: The First Biennial de São Paulo 1951 is an examination of art in the context of thepublic realm. This proposed research project will re-evaluate decisions relating to the selection andinstallation of works, the choice and use of venue, and the accompanying essays and catalogues, relatingto the first Biennial Exhibition. Through an examination of art criticism, artists’ writings, and art works, my proposed research aims toconsider how the first Biennial affected emerging artists such as Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, andinfluenced the evolution of artistic groups in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, including Grupo Ruptura, GrupoFrente and Neo-concretismo, in order to re-interpret histories of modernism in Brazil.The First edition of the São Paulo Biennial, which took place in 1951, extended the global territory ofModern Art and introduced the Biennial model to Latin America. This research examines the project in itshistorical and international contexts.This Biennial was above all an enviable temporary museum of modern art, with extensive specialexhibitions dedicated to Cubism, Futurism, De Stijl, and key figures in the history of Expressionism, as wellas to Alexander Calder, Paul Klee, Henry Moore, and Pablo Picasso. In addition to these special exhibitions,the Biennial featured current art from thirty-two countries from around the world. A number of displaysfrom the Latin American countries, also presented works by contemporary practitioners of variousgeometric and abstract styles, including the Argentine, Brazilian, Cuban, Uruguayan, and Venezuelanexhibitions.By investigating these transnational exchanges and encounters during the Biennial exhibition, I will explorehow the movement of individuals, ideas, and artworks generated collaboration and debate, and considerhow Brazilian avant-gardes may have been influenced by the tradition of form, or the utopias of modernityin the same way as their international counterparts.This study will undertake a critical analysis of Brazils Concrete period, examining the central Neo-concretetext, Ferreira Gullar's ‘Theory of the Non-Object,’ (1959). By exploring Gullar's critical writing on abstractand Concrete art throughout the 1950s, I will consider how his writing encouraged Brazilian avant-gardesto produce work that attempted to surpass the idealistic precepts of European Modernism.