The Modernism of Rupture in Brazil
On December 9, 1952, the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo inaugurated the first show of Grupo Ruptura [Rupture Group] – the pioneering São Paulo branch of the concretist movement. That same day saw the release of the group’s founding document, the “Ruptura Manifesto,” written by Waldemar Cordeiro (1925–1973), a theorist and spokesman for the group’s ideas. This concise text set forth the new spatial, chromatic and formal principles which, with a rigor as never before seen in the history of Brazilian art, conveyed the meaning and context of the rupture proposed by its signatories Lothar Charoux, Waldemar Cordeiro, Geraldo de Barros, Kazmer Fejer, Leopoldo Haar, Luis Sacilotto and Anatol Wladyslaw – who were later joined by Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Judith Lauand and Maurício Nogueira Lima.
The manifesto included a list of the trends that were the group’s artistic adversaries, whose apparent modernity concealed their incomprehension of the new, as they were producing “new forms out of old principles.” These tendencies encompassed “all the varieties and hybrids of naturalism; the mere negation of naturalism, that is, the ‘wrong’ naturalism of children, the insane, the ‘primitive’ artists, the expressionists, the surrealists, etc.; the hedonist nonfigurativism spawned by gratuitous taste that seeks the mere excitement of pleasure or displeasure.”
This varied enumeration included an aspect that set it apart from the logic of the various manifestoes of the European vanguards that inspired the group. The artists of the “Ruptura Manifesto” proposed a break from a historical period incomparably longer than that considered by their European peers, since they did not only question their contemporary adversary (in this case, informal abstractionism), but all the figurative trends that had, for centuries, dominated Brazilian art.
This simultaneity of trends – of various historical periods – from which they broke away in a single manifesto, revealed the limits of the initial modernism in Brazil which, unlike similar movements on the Old Continent, did not promote a spatial or discursive breaking away from the principles of classical art, nor did it generate any “ism” – a factor that lent a radical, entirely new and unique sense to the rupture headed up by Cordeiro.
Processes of modernization effectively founded in the European paradigm of rupture were very rare – exceptions and not the rule – especially if we consider the unfinished experiences of modernization in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Nevertheless, the current theoretical and political questioning of paradigms (such as rupture and universality) should not be projected onto social contexts which, in the past, aimed to implant them in Brazil. The questions then proposed were of another, more profound and radical order: to break away from the traces of the colonial past that hindered the effective modernization of Brazilian art, and of the country itself.
In a little more than two decades of intense inventive productivity, Waldemar participated decisively in the implantation and consolidation of the São Paulo and Brazilian vanguards and promoted the rupture (founded on the self-referent principles proposed by concrete art) from the Brazilian figurative modernism of the first half of the 20th century. He also contributed to the theoretic and practical integration between art, landscaping, urban planning, criticism of art and politics, and to the critical debate with the concretist vanguard group from Rio de Janeiro – Grupo Frente, the embryo of neoconcretism. In the 1960s, the artist approached the worldwide upturn of neofigurativism. Between 1968 in 1973 he dedicated himself mainly to the investigation of computer art.
This renewal therefore became fundamental for the construction of important repertoires that arose in opposition to this renewal, or which were outgrowths from it. These repertoires, in turn, were assimilated by the prolific experimental web that unfolded in questions which today configure the vast, multifaceted and complex field of Brazilian contemporary art.
In the early 1950s, the city of São Paulo, in a process of accelerated industrialization and urban growth, found itself in a period of intense cultural excitement, driven mainly by the recent inauguration of two important museums that spotlighted modern art and by the creation of São Paulo International Biennial. The dispute between figuration and abstraction in art was then the topic of heated debates. In this context, a group of young artists came together in defense of abstraction and organized, in December 1952, an exhibition at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, accompanied by the publication of their manifesto, both under the title of Ruptura [Rupture].
Geraldo de Barros, Waldemar Cordeiro, Luiz Sacilotto, Lothar Charoux, Kazmer Féjer, Leopold Haar and Anatol Wladyslaw signed the manifesto, which affirmed the “renewal of the essential values of visual art (space-time, movement and material)” and presented their lemma: “the work of art does not contain an idea, it is itself an idea.” Setting forth their radically avant-garde position, these artists – who were joined in the following years by others, including Judith Lauand and Hermelindo Fiaminghi – began to develop an aesthetic program of the constructivist lineage, exploring restricted relations of pure colors and rhythms based on alignments, polarities, progressions and displacements, inspired above all by the “internal logic of development and construction,” defined by Max Bill (who had shown in São Paulo and, at that time, was the director of the Hochschule für Gestaltung [Ulm School of Design], in Germany, a descendent of the Bauhaus). Their works do not seek immediate revelation, but rather require the intelligence of our perception in the continuous interplay between the whole and the parts.
Under the denomination of concrete art, the production of these artists was structured on clear theoretic principles and on a practice which maintained the possibility of intervening in everyday social life within their horizon. As can be seen in this exhibition, this was to take place through drawings, paintings, sculptures, objects or photographs, but also through the artist’s involvement in the design of furniture and visual communication as well as in architectural and landscaping designs, engaging in the productive articulation between art and industry, at a moment of optimism in which Brazil was yearning for modernization.
Even though it was never fully achieved, this utopian wager by these artists made history, representing a true qualitative turning point in the production and discussion of art made in the country, giving rise to important developments, including neoconcretism, which renewed the Ruptura movement’s question of how and for whom art is made.
Luciana Brito Galeria presents the group show "Ruptura" featuring the artists:
Geraldo de Barros, Augusto de Campos, Lothar Charoux, Waldemar Cordeiro, Kazmer Féjer, Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Leopoldo Haar, Judith Lauand, Luiz Sacilotto and Anatoz Wladyslaw
visitation: November 10th – March 9th, 2019
Tuesdays to Fridays, 10 am to 7 pm, Saturdays, 11 am to 6 pm