Hélio Oiticica

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Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980) was a Brazilian visual artist and art theoretician interested in the spatial quality of paintings. Early in his career, as a member of Grupo Frente, he exhibited a deep fascination with European modernism. Later, as a co-founder of the Neo-Concrete Movement, he distanced himself from European traditions and embraced the poet Oswald de Andrade’s conception of cultural cannibalism. It called for the new Brazilian culture transform, not absorb, the influences of the European avant-garde and thus break the cultural hegemony of the nation’s former colonizers. During this period, Oiticica was captivated by the vernacular architecture of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, the everyday lives of their residents and the political and social dimensions of Samba. Utilizing makeshift building materials sourced from the favelas, Oiticica began creating colorful architectural micro-installations. These Penetrables (spaces to penetrate) allowed viewers to not only walk into and through the paintings, but also to affect their forms by moving the installations’ mobile walls – this represented the next stage of his exploration of the spatial potential of painting. However, the most radical manifestation of Oiticica's thoughts was the Parangolés series of brightly-colored cloaks meant to be worn by Samba dancers. Within the context of Brazil's highly segregated society and the repressive rule of the military junta, these works of art took on a deeply political meaning. In the 1970s Oiticica moved to New York City, where his investigations into the spatial qualities of paintings reached their culmination. The artist transformed his apartment into the paragon of a communal living space by creating a series of colorful structures which divided it into small “nests” which he made available to strangers. He died at the age of 42 after suffering a stroke. (Source)


  • Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, Cartas, 1964-1974, ed. & intro. Luciano Figueiredo, Rio de Janeiro: UFRJ, 1996; 2nd ed., 1998, 264 pp. (Brazilian Portuguese)


  • Helio Oiticica, London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1969. Exh. held at the Whitechapel Gallery, 25 February-6 April 1969. Text by Guy Brett.
  • Hélio Oiticica. Witte De with Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1992.
  • Hélio Oiticica: Quasi-Cinemas, New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, Wexner Center for the Arts, and Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2001. Text by Carlos Basualdo.
  • Helio Oiticica: The Body of Colour, London: Tate, and Houston, TX: Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 2007, 416 pp. Text by Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wynne H. Phelan, and Luciano Figueiredo. TOC. Exhibition (MFA). Exhibition (Tate).
  • Oiticica in London. London: Tate Publishing, 2007, 96+[40] pp. Text by Guy Brett, Luciano Figueiredo, Michael Asbury, Paulo Venancio Filho, Hélio Oiticica.
  • Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Art, and Munich: DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2016, 320 pp. Text by Lynn Zelevansky, Elisabeth Sussman, Donna M. De Salvo, Anna Katherine Brodbeck, James Rondeau. Exhibition (Carnegie). Exhibition (Artic). Exhibition (Whitney). [1]
  • Hélio Oiticica: Dance in My Experience, São Paulo: Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), 2020, 321+[8] pp. Text by Adriano Pedrosa, Tomás Toledo, Adrian Anagnost. Exhibition (MASP). Exhibition (Lisson Gallery).


  • Fios Soltos: A Arte de Hélio Oiticica, ed. Paula Braga, São Paulo: Perspectiva, 2008. (Brazilian Portuguese)
  • Sérgio B. Martins, Constructing an Avant-Garde: Art in Brazil, 1949-1979, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013. Publisher.
  • Sabeth Buchmann, Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz, Hélio Oiticica, Neville D'Almeida, Hélio Oiticica and Neville D'almeida: Block Experiments in Cosmococa--Program in Progress, London: Afterall, 2013.
  • Irene Small, Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. Publisher.
  • Monica Amor, Theories of the Nonobject: Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, 1944–1969, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016. Publisher.

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