Critics’ Picks

Hélio Oiticica, Parangolé P16 capa 12. Da adversidade vivemos (Parangolé P16 Cape 12. We Live from Adversity), 1965–1992, yute, fabric, various plastics, burlap, and sawdust, suspended from wooden beam, 50 x 29 1/2 x 8 11/16".

New York

“The Geometry of Hope: Latin American Abstract Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection”

Grey Art Gallery
100 Washington Square East New York University
September 12 - December 8

An ambitious and extensive survey of abstract Latin American art made between the 1930s and the 1970s, “The Geometry of Hope” is organized according to six cities’ distinct artistic practices. In Caracas, Jesús Rafael Soto, Alejandro Otero, and Carlos Cruz-Diez all played with the sculptural possibilities of the canvas. Sly optical effects cause Cruz-Diez’s red Plexiglas relief Physichromie 500, 1970, seemingly to change in texture and color as you walk by it. Buenos Aires’s polemical cultural debate is played out in a series of manifestos, such as the aural and written Madí Manifesto (1948), which seeks to distill objects to their immanence. Accompanying Argentine artist Raúl Lozza’s mural-like painting is his treatise on “Perceptismo,” urging that all forms and colors be presented as if on same plane. In Montevideo, the one featured practictioner, Joaquin Garcia-Torres, wrote his own aesthetic tracts, advocating for a marriage of abstraction with indigenous American designs. The São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro sections showcase experimentation in a wider variety of media, including Geraldo de Barros’s “Fotoformas,” photographic manipulations that eschew representation. The exhibition features work by women from only two countries; the Brazilian sections present Lygia Pape’s delicate patterned woodcuts alongside Lygia Clark’s malleable, participatory sculptures. However, both Clark's work and her contemporary Hélio Oiticica’s off-kilter paintings are overshadowed by their later fantastical, interactive pieces. Oiticica’s Parangolé P16 capa 12. Da adversidade vivemos (Parangolé P16 Cape 12. We Live from Adversity), 1965–1992, a mass of plastic, burlap, and sawdust hung from the ceiling, invites the spectator in, transforming the static artwork into a performative event. The idealistic political possibilities offered by such inventive hybrids lend these experiments with form their infusion of hope.