Hélio Oiticica: Exhibition guide, room 8

Hélio Oiticica Grand Nucleus Grande Núcleo 1960–66

Hélio OiticicaGrand Nucleus Grande Núcleo 1960–66

César and Claudio Oiticica Collection, Rio de Janeiro

Nuclei Series (1960–6)

The Núcleos (Nuclei) series embodies Oiticica’s concept of nuclear colour: colour that ascends or descends in gradual hues from its centre. These ‘chromatic environments’ consist of multiple hanging panels, painted on both sides, and arranged at 90-degree angles to form a maze. The openings between the panels are as important as the panels themselves, recalling the play of negative and positive spaces in the earlier Metaesquemas series. The viewer’s perception of the works shifts with changes to the light and movement of the surrounding air.

Oiticica devised three types of Nuclei that he classified in terms of their relative size. The first to be made was the NC1 Pequeno Núcleo no. 01 (Small Nucleus No. 01). This includes a mirror that enhances the light and colours of the spatial arrangement, as well as allowing viewers to see themselves as active participants in the work.

Three medium nuclei (NC3, NC4, NC6) were eventually combined into a large-scale hanging environment known as the Grande Núcleo (Grand Nucleus) 1960–6. This spectacular work, with panels in tones of violet at the nuclear centre unfolding into a range of luminous yellows, amplified the spatial and temporal aspects of the Spatial Reliefs. The participation of the viewer in experiencing the colour, the effect of light and the tension between actual and suggested space in this work, is more essential than ever.

Penetrable PN1 (1961)

The Penetrable is the culmination of Oiticica’s concept of nuclear colour. In contrast to the open maze of hanging panels in the Nuclei, the Penetrable structure consists of a closed ‘cabin’ of adjoining coloured panels; colour surrounds and provides shelter to the viewer. PN 1 Penetrável 1961 was the first free-standing Penetrable, a small-scale cabin with sliding panels, which the viewer was encouraged to enter in order to participate in the sensory experience. The work shown here is a facsimile model, made so that you can step into and experience the work of art which, for conservation reasons, cannot be done with the original. In the Penetrables, Oiticica felt that ‘the sense of spectator involvement reaches its apex and its justification’. Moving through the cabins or labyrinths, the spectator becomes ‘the discoverer of the work’.