Finding a Place in the World
Aug 28, 2017

From left to right, panelists Irene Small, Matheus Pitta Rocha, Fred Coelho and Lyle Ashton discuss the enduring legacy of Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica. Photograph by Filip Wolak

The Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica experimented widely throughout his lifetime, working in painting, installation, film, and more. His subversive and politically charged art made it difficult to remain in his native country, which was ruled by an oppressive military regime in the 1960s. Fleeing to London in 1969, he wrote that he had “no place in the world.” In the 1970s, he spent eight years in New York City, where his experiments in film and media were productive in developing new directions and methods in his work.

On July 14, scholars Irene V. Small and Fred Coelho, and artists Matheus Pitta Rocha and Lyle Ashton Harris gathered at the Whitney to discuss how Oiticica’s exploration of medium, subject matter, and style resulted in his dynamic artistic vision. The panelists discussed his work in Brazil and the changes to his lifestyle and practice after moving to New York, connecting his work to the political and cultural movements that were occurring in the respective locations at the time.

The discussion also addressed how Oiticica’s influence can still be seen today, as both Matheus Rocha Pitta and Lyle Ashton Harris drew connections between their respective practices to Oiticica’s, demonstrating the many ways in which the Brazilian artist was in many ways, ahead of his time.

By Tausif Noor, Public Programs Intern