“The Experimental Exercise Of Freedom”

MOCA Geffen Contemporary

This exhibition offered the perfect opportunity to overturn clichés about modernism in the periphery. Featuring the work of five of the most relevant South American avant-garde artists of the postwar period, Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, Gego, Mira Schendel, and Mathias Goeritz, the show included about one hundred pieces from the late ’50s to the ’90s. But what the curators hoped to demonstrate—that the South American avant-garde developed in close dialogue with the legacy of Constructivism; and that through “the creative experience” the artist reconstitutes “his or her own subjectivity” and reconnects art and life (an idealism more typical of the historical avant-garde than the troubled and fragile humanism of postwar art in South America)—was inconsistent with the work on view.

The Constructivist premise holds only for Clark, Oiticica, and Gego. The first two were part of the Neoconcrete

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