Hélio Oiticica, the penetrable outcast
If he were alive, Hélio Oiticica would have turned 84 yesterday, July 26th. Considered one of the greatest names in the history of Brazilian art, Oiticica sought to overcome the notion of art object that prevailed at the time. In this sense, the art object surpasses contemplative understanding, heading towards an understanding that affects behaviors, which has an ethical, social and political dimension.
In 1959, he became involved with the Neo-Concrete Group alongside artists such as Reynaldo Jardim, Amilcar de Castro, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape e Franz Weissmann. Abandoning the frame and adopting relief, Hélio would soon explore new domains, creating his cores and penetrables.
His visit to Morro da Mangueira, in 1964, to see how floats were made, put him in contact with a community organized around dance, samba and Carnival, which was a vital experience for Oiticica.
In that period, Hélio Oiticida created the Parangolé, which he called “quintessential anti-art”, a living, walking painting. The Parangolé is a kind of cape (or flag, banner or tent), which, only with the movement of the person wearing it, fully reveals its colors, shapes, textures and messages such as “I Incorporate Revolt” and “I am Possessed”.
In 1965, when presenting the Parangolés, being worn by dancers from Mangueira, at the Opinião 65 exhibition, he was kicked out of Rio de Janeiro’s Modern Art Museum, an event that intensified his interest in developing an art that was inseparable from social issues.
It was also Hélio Oiticica who made the Tropicália penetrable, which not only inspired the name, but also helped to consolidate the aesthetic of the tropicalist movement in Brazilian music, in the 60s and 70s. Oiticica called it “the very first conscious attempt at imposing a ‘Brazilian’ image to the context of avant-garde”.