Waldemar Cordeiro: Knowledge (in)forms


Installation view
Ruptura: Historic Exhibition of São Paulo Concrete Art
Luciana Brito - NY Project, Sept. 6 - Nov. 6, 2017
Image courtesy Susan Grant Lewin Associates and the gallery

On view until November 6th, and for the first time in New York, Luciana Brito Galeria - NY Project presents "Ruptura," an exhibition of drawings and paintings from the São Paulo Concrete Art movement (ca. 1950s).  

With a focus on the work by Waldemar Cordeiro, leader of the art movement and theoretician, the exhibition includes works by other members of Grupo Ruptura, such as- Lothar Charoux, Anatol Wladyslaw, Judith Lauand, Geraldo de Barros and Luiz Sacilotto.  

Cordeiro proposed to question "what is concrete" in his 1952 manifesto, and the answer is somewhere in this exhibition.  


Installation view
Ruptura: Historic Exhibition of São Paulo Concrete Art
Luciana Brito - NY Project, Sept. 6 - Nov. 6, 2017
Image courtesy Susan Grant Lewin Associates and the gallery



Waldemar Cordeiro
"Idéia Visível," 1951
Enamel on kelmite
13.77 x 13.77 in. / 35 x35 cm
Image courtesy Susan Grant Lewin Associates and the gallery

During the post-WWII era, Brazil saw an exponential growth economically and culturally. While in the art world, Grupo Ruputra aimed to create a rupture of the traditional concept of art. With emphasis on clarity "chiara" in abstraction, the group refuted the École des Beaux-Arts sensibility expressed through the figurative and the narrative.  

In the case of Cordeiro, he set forth the theory that art was a matter of knowledge, devoid of authorial expression and should refuse definition. These works in this exhibition represent the core philosophy of Grupo Raputra. Utilizing industrial material such enamel rather than conventional medium such as oil paint, the compositions refrain from personal expression. They illustrate the artists' intellectual exploration toward a new form of art.



Lothar Charoux Untitled, c. 1950 
China ink on paper 
28.34 x 35.82 in 49,5 x 69,5 cm
Image courtesy Susan Grant Lewin Associates and the gallery



Geraldo de Barros
“Arranjo de Três Formas Semelhantes Dentro de Um Círculo” (gdb_1089), 1953
enamel on Kelmite
23.62 x 23.62 in / 60 x 60 cm
Image courtesy Susan Grant Lewin Associates and the gallery

In 1951, Max Bill, Swiss scholar, artist, and founder of  Concrete Art movement in Europe received the international sculpture prize during the São Paulo Bienal for his emphasis on the concrete rather than expressionistic abstraction. This recognition is a historic evidence that Concrete art in Brazil paralleled with that was happening in Europe.  

On the surface, the work's formal appearance seems derivative of European abstraction. However, against the social and economic backdrop of post-war Brazil, these abstractions reflect the country's artistic progress of breaking away from the traditional concept of art.  In a 1953 text, Cordeiro defined art as “a means for deducing knowledge from concepts [that are] beyond personal opinion.”* 



Waldemar Cordeiro
Untitled, 1951
tempera on cardboard on wood 10.62 x 8.26 in
27 x 21 cm
Image courtesy Susan Grant Lewin Associates and the gallery



Waldemar Cordeiro
“Residência Ubirajara Keutenedjian”, São Paulo, 1955
Photo print mounted on pvc
20.86 x 18.70 x 0.78 in / 53 x 47,5 x 2 cm
ed 1/17
Image courtesy Susan Grant Lewin Associates and the gallery

In "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote," a 1939 short story written by Jorge Luis Borges, the author introduces a fictional French writer whose inability to translate the original 1600s Spanish novel led him to re-create the entire story line by line in its original form. Ultimately, Borges' story raises the question of authorship, re-appropriation and interpretation.  

But why bring this up?  Because it is in the context of anachronism and with the question of authorship, interpretation and expression that one can find a way to understand Grupo Ruptura's body of work. Before I go on, I must thank Héctor Olea for his essay** that has helped me to understand Cordeiro's theory, and whose work I have just borrowed and now re-telling it to you.

This exhibition is not strictly meant to be didactic and theoretical to the point of utter befuddlement for the visitors.  These historic works mark an important change in Brazilian modern art that is comparable to the European avant-garde at the dawn of the twentieth-century. These drawings and paintings can be appreciated simply as formal compositions of color and geometry, at the same time, they represent the modern men's quest to knowledge in an age of economic and cultural modernization.  

Coming back to the question of "What is concrete," as the current exhibition shows that "concrete" is clarity, and knowledge through form and material.


Installation view
Ruptura: Historic Exhibition of São Paulo Concrete Art
Luciana Brito - NY Project, Sept. 6 - Nov. 6, 2017
Image courtesy Susan Grant Lewin Associates and the gallery

Brazilian gallerist Luciana Brito inaugurated her eponymous gallery  in 1997.  The gallery has played a pivotal role in consolidating the local market and as a pioneering Brazilian gallery at leading international art fairs. 

In its new space- 186 Franklin Street, the NY Project is a collaboration between Luciana Brito Galeria and Carlos Junqueira, whose vintage furniture showroom has occupied the downstairs space for over two decades. Together Luciana Brito NY Project Espasso Annex aim to converge modern art and design from a Brazilian perspective. 

*Cordeiro, Waldemar.  "Ruptura."  Correio Paulistano (São Paulo, Brazil), January 11, 1953, 3.

(*) Enriquez, Mary Schneider.  “Mapping Change,” in Geometric Abstraction.  New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2001, 13-37.

**Olea, Héctor.  "Waldemar Cordeiro: From Visible Ideas to the Invisible Work."  in Olea, Héctor and Ramírez, Mari Carmen.  Building on a Construct: The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2010.  pp.  129-151.

For related articles click here and here for construction of form.  


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