November 10, 2006 - Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) - Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color
November 10, 2006

Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color

Hélio Oiticica, Brazilian, 1937-1980 B17 Glass Bólide 05 Homenagem a Mondrian, 1965
Oil with polyvinyl acetate emulsion on nylon mesh and burlap; glass; paint and pigment suspended in water
César and Claudio Oiticica Collection, Rio de Janeiro

Hélio Oiticica
The Body of Color

December 10, 2006 through April 1, 2007

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet
Houston, TX 77005

For information call 713-639-7540
or e-mail at pr [​at​]

Through its International Center for the Arts of the Americas, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has undertaken a multi-year collaboration with the Projeto Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to document, conserve, and exhibit the work of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980), one of the 20th centurys most innovative artists. The MFAH is committed to two exhibitions of the artists work, to the documentation and restoration of a large number of his works, and to the publication of a seven-volume catalogue raisonné.
Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color

The first Oiticica exhibition at the MFAH, The Body of Color, is also the first major museum exhibition to focus exclusively on the artists radical and uncompromising approach to color.

Curated by Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and Director, ICAA, at the MFAH, The Body of Color premieres December 10, 2006 and remains on view through April 1, 2007. It shows at the Tate Modern (London) June 7 through September 3, 2007.
The Body of Color traces the conceptual and technical processes that led to Oiticicas emancipation of color into space. The approximately 220 objects represent the different series Oiticica created between 1955 and 1969, shedding light on the contexts and influences of their production, and demonstrating the rigor of his aesthetic inquiry. In keeping with the interdisciplinary scope of his production, the exhibition also includes documentary materials, films, and maquettes. Because Oiticica was a meticulous record keeper and didnt sell his work, the PHO has about 95 percent of his lifetime production and a wealth of supporting material.

Oiticicas exploration of color began with the paintings and gouaches he did with the Rio de Janeiro-based Grupo Frente in 1955-56. This early series, never shown before, reveals a highly subjective approach to the concrete art tradition practiced by Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo artists. The iconoclastic approach of the Grupo Frente led to the deconstruction of color grids embodied in the Metaesquemas series (1957-58). It also resulted in an extraordinary group of white on white paintingsnever before seen and only recently restored for this exhibitioninspired by Kazimir Malevich. In 1959, after joining the Neoconcrete Group that included Lygia Clark and the poet Ferreira Gullar, Oiticica explored the retinal and physical experience of color in non-traditional paintings and objects that invited the viewers participation. Their work during this period resulted in the progressive deconstruction of the traditional components of paintingi.e. color and its support, the two-dimensional planeand their reconfiguration. Hence, in Oiticicas Spatial Reliefs, Bilaterals (1959) and Nuclei series (1960-66)suspended double-sided painted wood constructionsthe spectator is invited to move in and around the panels to discover color as an environment. Soon after, Oiticica started to work with ephemeral materials and became interested in incorporating the viewer into the art as a dynamic component. In this period he constructed Penetrables (1960-79), environmental pieces consisting of labyrinths in which the audience was invited to experience sensations through bodily contact with ropes, hanging fabrics, plants, sand, gravel, and everyday objects.

It was with the Bólides (1963-69) and Parangolés (1964-79) that Oiticicas exploration of color achieved a radical and original formulation that set him firmly apart from his predecessors and contemporaries. The Bólides consisted of glass containers and wood boxes filled with pigments, coal, shells, and earth. These were meant to produce an energetic encounter between the viewers body and the psyche by means of direct visual and tactile stimuli; further, when exposed to light, they produced subtle chromatic effects that categorize them as manipulable light-boxes. With these objects, Oiticica began the gradual dematerialization of color into pure sensory stimuli that would culminate with the Parangolés (1964-79). The latter were colored capes, banners, and cloth objects displayed or worn as habitable paintings. Worn by anonymous members of the audience who moved to the rhythm of samba, the Parangolés activated the fleeting illusion of color in motion.
Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Ramírez, Wynne Phelan, MFAH conservation director, and Luciano Figueiredo, director, Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica.

For information, call 713-639-7300 or see

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)
Share - Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color
  • Share