Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium
July 14–Oct 1, 2017
Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium is the first full-scale U.S. retrospective in two decades of the Brazilian artist’s work. One of the most original artists of the twentieth century, Oiticica (1937—1980) made art that awakens us to our bodies, our senses, our feelings about being in the world: art that challenges us to assume a more active role. Beginning with geometric investigations in painting and drawing, Oiticica soon shifted to sculpture, architectural installations, writing, film, and large-scale environments of an increasingly immersive nature, works that transformed the viewer from a spectator into an active participant. The exhibition includes some of his large-scale installations, including Tropicalia and Eden, and examines the artist’s involvement with music and literature, as well as his response to politics and the social environment. The show captures the excitement, complexity, and activist nature of Oiticica’s art, focusing in particular on the decisive period he spent in New York in the 1970s, where he was stimulated by the art, music, poetry, and theater scenes. While Oiticica engaged at first with many of the city’s artists, he ended up living in self-fashioned isolation before returning to Brazil. He died in Rio de Janeiro, in 1980, at the age of 42.
This exhibition is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium is curated by Lynn Zelevansky, Henry J. Heinz II Director, Carnegie Museum of Art; Elisabeth Sussman, Curator and Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, Whitney Museum of American Art; James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin Director, Art Institute of Chicago; and Donna De Salvo, Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art; with Katherine Brodbeck, Associate Curator, Carnegie Museum of Art.
Support for the national tour of this exhibition is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
In New York, major support is provided by the Whitney’s National Committee.
Generous support is provided by Art&Art Collection, Tony Bechara, the Garcia Family Foundation, and the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation.
Additional support is provided by the Evelyn Toll Family Foundation.
Generous endowment support is provided by The Keith Haring Foundation Exhibition Fund.
Hear directly from artists and curators on selected works from the exhibition.
*A free Spotify account is required to listen to this playlist.
The musical style of Tropicália, which takes its name from Oiticica’s eponymous 1966-67 installation, became a larger artistic and socio-cultural movement in Brazil. After a military coup in 1964, popular music played an integral role in the aesthetic and cultural resistance to the political climate. Music continued to play an important role in Oiticica’s work into his New York years, where he attended rock concerts at the Fillmore East. This playlist is inspired by Tropicália musicians such as Caetano Veloso and GiIberto Gil, as well was the rock and roll musicians like Jimi Hendrix from whom Oiticica took inspiration in the 1970s.
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In the News
"It’s alive in a way almost no art feels now."
—The New York Times
"One of the most famous figures of Brazil’s mid-century surge of experimental art."
"A posthumous retrospective reveals the immersive pleasures of his work."
—The New Yorker
"Not your typical show."
"Revolutionary Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica gets a retrospective at The Whitney."
"A time traveling treat."
—The Village Voice