Awesome Artists : Helio Oiticica
Welcome to the first of our "Awesome Artists that you need to know" series.
It's pretty self explanatory- this segment will introduce you to an artist who has inspired my practice and for the most part is generally a lesser known artist, at least in the mainstream world.
We won't be talking about Picasso and Van Gogh here, not because they aren't great artists but because they've taken up enough art based dialogue. Most of us are more than familiar with them and their works.
Instead we will focus on artists who aren't typically discussed, who are underrepresented, who have taken a new or unique approach to art making or who maybe get forgotten about or brushed over in Art history 101.
I'm excited to share these artists with you- so get ready to be educated and inspired by some pretty fabulous creators who you may have not heard of. If you feel that tingle of excitement or a flutter of inspiration I urge you to continue your own education on the artist. (Google can be your best friend in times of curiosity or creative educational pursuits.)
Image from Ivan Cardoso's film H.O (1979)
This week we'll be talking about the work of Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica.
When I first heard of Oiticica it was in an upper level theory course, and we were discussing his works titled "Parangolés". As so often happens when you are in this kind of setting (or in information overload), I was unable to properly engage in the discussion - to be honest I was probably just itching to get back to the studio to work.
Oiticica's work didn't have resonance for me until I rediscovered him recently in doing research for my work.
Oiticica was born in 1937 in Rio de Janeiro. He started off his art career as a painter but began experimenting by taking his work into different dimensions in the 1960's.
His departure from painting is where things start to get interesting (in my opinion).
Rather than simply applying colors to canvas Oiticica shifted his relationship with color by wearing it, inhabiting it and moving in it.
He called these works "Parangolés" which roughly translated means "disturbance" or "confusion" or "animated situation". The Parangolés were constructed of different pieces of material in a variety of colors. They became activated as art when they were worn and moved in. Seeing them activated was essentially seeing color in motion and they were brought to life by Oiticica and his friends and collaborators.
He described his work as "a search for the infinite dimension of color as it relates to structure, space, and time’" (Tate).
In other words he was finding new ways of bringing color to life, he was exploring what it could do when it was no longer attached to a canvas which was then applied to a wall.
The "Parangolés" were inspired by the samba sounds of a small community in Rio de Janeiro called Mangueira Hill.
What I love best about these colorful "Parangolés" was how they became a performative translation of Mangueira Hill and how Oiticica experienced space, sound and feeling in that place and turned it into his art.
Imagine creating a performance based on the way a place makes you feel?
The Parangolés existed in a moment of living, and came alive through the samba rhythm and the people who wore them, they were colorful blurs challenging viewers to revisit their understanding of art.
What Oiticia showed us with his Parangolés was that instead of going to a gallery and looking at a painting hanging from a wall we can engage, move our bodies experience laughter and dancing and we can continue to call that art.
I encourage you to think of new ways of translating your environment; if you had to "perform" your city, or maybe your favorite place what might it look like? What sound if any would accompany the performance?
What would your costume look like? What colors would it be?
Now take your inspiration to the next level and create your own "Parangolé".