Oiticica began to work on the first Bólides (Fireballs) in 1963, after completing the Invenções (Inventions) series, through which he had discovered the means of infusing colour with depth and luminosity. All of the 64 works in the Bólides series include some means of allowing light to penetrate into their interior, generating the effect of a luminous centre or nucleus, and making them containers of light.
The first Bólides Oiticica created – called ‘Bólides caixas’ (Box Bolides) – are highly elaborate yet simple constructions made from coarse painted plywood. Like small architectural environments, they appear to be ‘inflamed’ by light and charged with energy, an important evolution in Oiticica’s idea of ‘totalidade-côr’ (total colour). They were designed to be handled, with moveable panels revealing new chromatic planes, though for conservation reasons they can no longer be touched. The compartments and openings – some visible, some hidden – hold loose pigments, mirrors, and other materials; Oiticica referred to the group as ‘structures for inspection’.
With the introduction of Glass Bólides into the series, Oiticica began to include everyday materials such as glass vessels, plastic, earth, painted cloth, shells and foam, expanding the range of sensory experience offered through interaction with the artwork. The range of colours was extended to include pinks and blues, and ready-made objects also began to find their way into the work, further encouraging the viewer’s emotional and intellectual participation.