“Beyond Participation: Hélio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida in New York”

The Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery at Hunter College
S.W. Corner of 68th Street and Lexington Avenue
February 4, 2010–May 1, 2010

Hélio Oiticica, Cosmococa—Programa in progress, CC1 Trashiscapes, 1973, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.

If Hélio Oiticica’s installations offer a utopian, playful retreat from the outside world, such an ambient space is even more inviting in the nook of an institutional facility such as Hunter College’s Leubsdorf Art Gallery. Curated by Jocelyn Meade Elliott, “Beyond Participation” showcases the artistic collaboration between filmmaker Neville D’Almeida and Oiticica in New York that spawned five installations, of which Cosmococa—Programa in progress, CC1 Trashiscapes, 1973, is on display, alongside D’Almeida’s 1967 film Jardim de Guerra (Garden of War) and reproductions of Oiticica’s notebooks.

Oiticica initially sought out D’Almeida’s friendship after being impressed by the geometric elements in Jardim de Guerra. Because the stark movie lacks subtitles and is overwhelmed by the loud sounds emitted from the piece in an adjacent room, the film functions more as an archival element than an immersive experience.

The main attraction is the sensorial Cosmococa, which invites spectators to lounge on large cushions and use nail files, as images and music fill the dark space. Inside Cosmococa, viewers see projected photographs, on opposing walls, of Luis Buñuel on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, actor Luis Fernando Guimarães wearing Oiticica’s Parangolé 30 Capa 23 M’Way Ke, and a Frank Zappa album cover, while Jimi Hendrix, Brazilian forró music, and street sounds blare. The work’s title collapses the terms cosmos and coca. The wordplay is foregrounded by lines of cocaine that trace and efface the projected images, interventions that blur the line between claiming and defacing the artist’s influences.

Although such an environment feels like a carefree experiment, Oiticica’s notebook Ntbk 1/73, 1973, prescribes a surfeit of aesthetic elements for the work—an invented story, stray voices, street noise, Hendrix, forró, and drugs—enumerating the artist’s influences and demonstrating the labor that generated his vision.

— Lori Cole