Calder and Brazilian Art:

Geometry, Body and Movement

From wire sculptures to mobiles, the curator addresses the specifics in the oeuvre of the American artist and his influence on the Brazilian artistic output.


The influence of Alexander Calder (1898-1976) on Brazilian art is seldom studied. His relationship with Brazil has been extensively discussed, but little attention has been given to the reverberation of his work on the artistic output itself. I would risk saying that Calder is to neo-concretism as Max Bill (1908-1994) is to concretism. The American's work is a sort of lively and procedural antidote to the machinic and serial austerity deriving from the Swiss artist.


A decisive contribution, albeit indirect, to the dissemination of Calder's work in Brazil was given by Mário Pedrosa in his seminal articles on the sculptor written back in the 1940s. With an enormous complicity, it was then that the seed was sown that sprouted a decade later in neo-concretism – the use of ordinary materials, the promotion of a more dynamic plastic form, the de-repression of the body and the breaking of a more contemplative and ceremonial distance between the audience and the artwork. The importance of the dialog engaging Calder and Pedrosa mixes, of course, with a number of other references and articulations arising out of the Brazilian cultural landscape.


This is neither about seeing neo-concretism against concretism nor Calder against Bill, but rather seeing – by means of these analogies – other possibilities of understanding the appropriation of the constructive/neoplastic tradition that ensured form, now freed from the plane, three combined potentials: spatial integration, organic effusion and rhythmic energy. In a way, what would unfold from the mobiles and become disseminated in the neo-concretism would be a constantly-unique equation of improvisation and rigor, body and geometry, construction and intuition.


 Starting with the performances of Cirque Calder, in the 1920s, Calder's remarkable characteristic was his ability to render industrial material, like wire, lightness and movement. Then, forms were gently brought alive by the

wind, thus giving way to the appearance of the mobiles Calder is one of the few modern artists who did not fear simplicity and grace.

He gave to constructivist tradition in general an expansive freedom that would later influence musicians, dancers, poets and, evidently, a whole new possibility of sculpture integrated into motion – kinetic art.


This exhibition, which engages Calder's work in a dialog with Brazilian art, is a small facet of a universe full of possibilities. It is divided into three sections. On the second basement, we see the generational relationship with the concrete and neo-concrete tradition, the common will to concentrate and expand the abstract form – in and out of the picture plane. So, the line can both structure itself geometrically and expand organically.


On the first basement, the idea is to suggest the subliminal development of Calder's influence on Brazilian contemporary art. The aspect worth highlighting here is the presence of the body as a vehicle for form, the incorporation of motion and geometry crossed by a specific social and cultural context where past and future lattice. From Creatures, bilaterals and parangolés by Lygia Clark (1920-1988) and Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980) to the sculptures by Waltercio Caldas (1946-), Ernesto Neto (1964-) and Carlos Bevilacqua (1965-), what we realize is how much our modernity distinguished itself owing to the vigor of a constructivist will tensioned and fueled by a constitutive precariousness. The balance is contingent and risky – like in the mobiles.


The exhibition journey ends on the first floor, where the motion of the forms turn vertical, detached from architecture, expanding into the atmosphere. The mobiles draw in the space, de-materialize themselves, resist gravity. A sculpture as vital breath, as dynamic energy, which renews itself over time, loses contact with the ground to transform air and rhythm into formal elements. Amidst these works, we find the vibration of an unalienating optimism, one that silently reminds us that art and grace are ways to resist idiocy, instrumentalization, death.


By Luiz Camillo Osorio

[Professor at Filosofy Department of Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro
(PUC-RJ), CNPQ’s researcher and curator of PIPA Institute. From 2009 to 2015 was curator of Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro (MAM-Rio), and in 2015 was curator of Brazilian pavillon of Venice Biennial. He is also critic of art and main curator of
Calder and the Brazilian Art.


2016 - developed by CONTEÚDO COMUNICAÇÃO