Critics’ Picks

Mira Schendel, Untitled, 1980, water paint, pencil, crayon, china ink on paper, 18 1/8 x 9 1/4".

New York

“Sensitive Geometries. Brazil 1950s–1980s”

Hauser & Wirth | East 69th Street
32 East 69th Street
September 12 - October 26

The contact high experienced between artists in Brazil and the visual grammars of Concrete art exemplified a vivid esprit de corps that, based on the quality of the work, should have had a greater global impact than it did. Alexander Calder certainly took note, but he serves as more the exception than the rule. The legacy of Brazil’s Concrete art movement within the country is profound and can be seen even in the urban design of the national capital, Brasília, which was founded in 1960. Modern Brazil and Concrete art to some extent go hand in hand. Yet while certain forms of postwar Brazilian popular art introduced themselves to the rest of the world with great aplomb, Concrete art never quite made it there.

That is, until now. “Sensitive Geometries. Brazil 1950s–1980s” is both a historical exhibition and an ode to a nascent Brazilian avant-garde as represented by the works of twelve essential artists from the Concrete art movement that surged in both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Highlights include the ethereal optic grammars of Lothar Charoux; the near-diaphanous abstract lines and shapes of Mira Schendel’s works on paper; and Paulo Roberto Leal’s alluring 1970 Armagem, a study of squares in paper, aluminum, and glass. “Sensitive Geometries” provides Concrete art with the space to speak of and through its strengths by inviting the viewer to discover both the harmonies and cacophonies inherent in the exhibition, as terse, color-blocked Concrete art butts heads with the more talkative, puckish, and allegorical Neo-concrete art installed in the same space. This conflict is to the exhibition’s benefit: The diversity of styles within this singular style speaks well of the varied talents of the artists who practiced Concrete art during this period. And thus, although it took some twenty years after Theo van Doesburg coined the term Concrete art in Art Concret for the reticent, angular, nonfigurative language of concretism to arrive in Brazil, these artists, with their bold and fragile forms, demonstrate rather clearly that it was perfect timing.