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Ferreira Gullar

Ferreira Gullar in his Copacabana home, Rio de Janeiro, August 1, 2013. Photo: Cecília Acioli/Folhapress.

FIRST-TIME VISITORS to the poet Ferreira Gullar’s apartment were often struck by his homemade replicas of works by Piet Mondrian and Alexander Calder. “Since I cannot afford originals,” he used to say, “I make my own.” His nonchalance about copying these masters underscores just how close Gullar and the midcentury circle of Brazilian artists around him felt to the modernist lineage they admired; Lygia Clark even wrote a personal letter to the long-deceased Mondrian in which she told him, “You are more alive today for me than all the people who understand me, up to a point.” Instead of revering the works of their avant-garde predecessors as canonical museum pieces, Gullar, Clark, and their peers treated them as a continually pertinent and accessible set of problems. Indeed, neither the weight of modernist forebears nor the intellectual milieu of Brazil’s cultural capitals intimidated

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