Lisson Gallery

FOCUS: Hélio Oiticica, Metaesquema

The beginning of Oiticica’s mature work can be dated to 1956 when, at the age of nineteen, he created a series of twenty-seven Sêcos, spare, intimate-sized paintings in gouache on raw cardboard. In these works, he was already leaving behind received notions of geometric abstraction. The shapes interact, creating the suggestion of a structure and a degree of movement in an otherwise empty field. In the Metaesquemas, some of which date to that same year, the sense of emptiness and dispersal that characterizes the Sêcos, what Adele Nelson has called, “the dissolution of structure,” is often replaced by a grid within which all movement is contained. Brick shapes that define each grid move subtly or bump into each other. Sometimes it seems that the energy within them is so strong that it can hardly be contained. 

Between 1956 and 1958, Oiticica produced several hundred Metaesquemas, the vast majority of which were gouache on raw cardboard; he painted only six in oil on canvas, and of those, four survive and only one is a vertical. In that subtly beautiful painting, the brick forms are creamy white against a soft gray background, and the movement is restrained. A vertical line or space – it can be read as either and flips back and forth – divides the canvas in half. There are seven rectangles on each side of the line; and on each side, unbroken rectangles alternate with rectangles that are divided at one end, leaving a square shape close to the center line. The left side has four whole rectangles and three divided ones, a pattern that is reversed on the right.  On the left the squares don’t move at all, only the rectangles tilt slightly, alternating left and right corners. On the right side, the squares tilt in a livelier manner and the rectangles remain still. There is the sense that this Metaesquema could fold along the center line, suggesting a move toward three dimensions. Irene Small has posited the fold as the vehicle that Oiticica used to move his work into sculpture, escaping the boundaries of conventional drawing. 


- Excerpts from "Hélio Oiticica's Path to Eden" by Lynn Zelevansky, 2020
 

Hélio Oiticica_Metaesquema_OITI580018 artwork
Hélio Oiticica_Metaesquema_OITI580018 artwork
Hélio Oiticica_Metaesquema_OITI580018 artwork
Hélio Oiticica_Metaesquema_OITI580018 artwork
Hélio Oiticica_Metaesquema_OITI580018 artwork
Hélio Oiticica_Metaesquema_OITI580018 artwork
Hélio Oiticica_Metaesquema_OITI580018 artwork
Hélio Oiticica_Metaesquema_OITI580018 artwork
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