The aim of this project is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the material and process-based decisions made by artists working in the concrete and Neo-concrete vein in Argentina and Brazil during the mid-twentieth century. Its focus is on the technical study of works from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros on loan to the Getty as part of the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative. Findings from this project will complement those of two other projects conducted simultaneously by scientific study groups in Argentina and Brazil undertaken and funded by the Getty Foundation within the same initiative. The project was conceived jointly with the Getty Research Institute.
Most of the art works in this study are paintings on canvas and wooden panels. The earliest ones were made in Buenos Aires, in 1946, the latest in São Paulo in 1962. Argentine and Brazilian artists paid great attention to their supports out of a desire to do away with the tradition of the two-dimensional painting as an illusionistic window to the world. However the material strategies differed among the artists in the study in that the Argentines developed irregularly shaped works, marcos recortados (cut-out frames), while a number of the Brazilian artists emphasized the sculptural quality of their works by using hardboard panels and attaching deep hanging devices that allow the works to hover in space.
In the 1950s, Brazil began to produce a range of hardboard panels from the fibers of Paraná pine and eucalyptus. By contrast, equivalent panels manufactured in the United States, such as Masonite, were made of yellow pine and other residual products of the wood industry. Also, in keeping with the avant-garde movements in Europe and the United States, most of the Brazilian concrete artists experimented with novel industrial paints and methods of application as a means of asserting their break with the past.
The project will investigate whether these material preferences significantly affected the making as well as the appearance of the works and to what extent these choices can be seen as conscious efforts on the artists’ part to create a new aesthetic. All insights will be put into the larger historic context of European and North American abstract painting in order to identify commonalities as well as practices and preferences specific to the Latin American context.
This is the first comprehensive study of its kind of the period, aiming to provide an in-depth overview of materials, techniques and processes employed by the most influential abstract modern artists in Latin America. Results from the project will be disseminated through a variety of media, including publications, podcasts and videos. A catalogue will be published to coincide with the related exhibition in 2017, which will present the works studied alongside initial results of the project. A number of workshops and meetings held throughout the next three years will ensure a maximum degree of information sharing and will result in a comprehensive trilingual publication.