Press Release

Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Colour

Tate Modern  Level 4
6 June – 23 September 2007

Hélio Oiticica (1937– 1980) was one of the most innovative Brazilian artists of his generation. Colour was central to his practice and this will be the first exhibition to focus on this key element in his work. Opening on 6 June at Tate Modern, Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Colour will also be the first large-scale exhibition of Oiticica’s work for over 35 years in the UK. The exhibition includes more than 150 works – paintings and works on paper, reliefs and sculptural objects as well as installations and environments.

Oiticica produced a remarkable body of work throughout his career in which he continually sought to challenge the way in which art could be experienced. From abstract compositions to early environmental installations, the exhibition will trace the way in which the artist deconstructed the traditional elements of painting – colour and the two-dimensional plane that supports it – reconfiguring them in new, innovative forms, and eventually liberating colour into space.  This exhibition will feature works from Oiticica’s early career, such as the paintings and gouaches made with the Rio de Janeiro-based Grupo Frente 1955–6, which show an obvious affinity with masters of modernism such as Paul Klee, Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian. This is followed by the extraordinary series of Metaesquemas, monochromatic grids of uneven abstract forms painted on board(1957–8), and a group of white on white paintings, never previously shown together.

The exhibition will feature Spatial Reliefs 1960, Bilaterals 1959 and Nuclei 1960–6, works which the viewer is invited to move in and around and to discover colour as a physical body or environment. A highlight of the exhibition is the fully restored, complete version of Oiticica’s incredible Grand Nucleus 1960–8. Comprising over thirty paintings suspended from the ceiling, the work will occupy the large central gallery of the exhibition at Tate Modern.

Oiticica’s most radical use of colour is found in the Bolides 1963–9, boxes or bottles containing pigment, foam, mirrors, shells, earth, fabric and poetry, and in the Parangolés 1964–79,cloth-objects that he described as habitable paintings. In the Bolides, Oiticica began the gradual dematerialisation of colour into pure sensory stimuli which would reach a climax with the Parangolés. Oiticica combined colour with rhythm, music, and performance to stimulate visual and tactile sensations, drawing in and involving his audience. The coloured capes, tents and banners of the Parangolés, were worn by members of the audience who moved to the rhythm of samba, activating and enacting the illusion of colour-in-motion.

Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Colour is organised by the Museum of Fine Arts Houston in collaboration with Tate Modern. The concept of the exhibition has been conceived by Mari Carmen Ramirez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and Director, InternationalCenter for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH. Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Colour will be at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (10 December 2006 – 1 April 2007) and travel to Tate Modern, London (6 June – 23 September 2007).