Hélio Oiticica, 'Spatial Relief (red) REL 036' 1959

Hélio Oiticica
Spatial Relief (red) REL 036 1959
Polyvinyl acetate resin on plywood
object: 625 x 1480 x 153 mm, 15 kg
Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, Tate Members and the Art Fund 2008© Projeto Hélio Oiticica

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Spatial Reliefs (1960)

In 1960, Oiticica – now aged 23 – wrote: ‘The experience of colour, the exclusive element of painting, became for me the very axis of what I do, the way I begin a work. Only now does the complexity of the relationship between colour and structure truly begin.’

Still conceiving innovative structures for colour, Oiticica’s next step was to create the radical series of red and yellow hanging structures he called Relevos Espaciais’(Spatial Reliefs). These are far more complex than the Bilaterals. Built from sheets of plywood, they intersect, overlap, or fold over one another at oblique angles, leaving gaps (‘negative spaces’) through which light can pass.

Like the Bilaterals, the Spatial Reliefs rely on the viewer’s participation: only by walking around them can you grasp the differences in shape and colour on each side. Oiticica designed many maquettes for these complex forms, but few were built in full scale.