Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226260167 Published February 2016
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Hélio Oiticica

Folding the Frame

Irene V. Small

Hélio Oiticica

Irene V. Small

304 pages | 50 color plates, 85 halftones | 8 1/2 x 10 | © 2016
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226260167 Published February 2016
E-book $10.00 to $44.99 About E-books ISBN: 9780226260334 Published February 2016
Hélio Oiticica (1937–80) was one of the most brilliant Brazilian artists of the 1960s and 1970s. He was a forerunner of participatory art, and his melding of geometric abstraction and bodily engagement has influenced contemporary artists from Cildo Meireles and Ricardo Basbaum to Gabriel Orozco, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and Olafur Eliasson. This book examines Oiticica’s impressive works against the backdrop of Brazil’s dramatic postwar push for modernization.

From Oiticica’s late 1950s experiments with painting and color to his mid-1960s wearable Parangolés, Small traces a series of artistic procedures that foreground the activation of the spectator. Analyzing works, propositions, and a wealth of archival material, she shows how Oiticica’s practice recast—in a sense “folded”—Brazil’s utopian vision of progress as well as the legacy of European constructive art. Ultimately, the book argues that the effectiveness of Oiticica’s participatory works stems not from a renunciation of art, but rather from their ability to produce epistemological models that reimagine the traditional boundaries between art and life.

Note on the Text

1. The Folded and the Flat
2. The Cell and the Plan
3. Ready-Constructible Color
4. What a Body Can Do


Review Quotes
“Theoretically sophisticated. . . . Small persuasively situates Oiticica's work in a specific Brazilian sociocultural context and in the broader history of the Western modernist avant-garde. Highly recommended.”
Carrie Lambert-Beatty, author of Being Watched: Yvonne Rainer and the 1960s
Hélio Oiticica brilliantly manages to fill gaps in knowledge about this important artist while challenging conventional wisdom through both archival research and adept analysis of art works. Small is wonderful at making points visually—by reference to certain details of art objects or documents—and does it in lucid, striking prose. This study will set a high bar for scholarship to come.”
Luis Pérez-Oramas, Latin American Art Curator, The Museum of Modern Art
“This impressive text on Oiticica is the most profound investigation of his work to date. I have rarely come across such a compelling and exhaustive account of a Brazilian artist from this period. Small’s book proves that Oiticica’s ‘folding the frame’ was much more than a simple experimental turn: it was, single-handedly, the ultimate folding of modern abstraction into its many unexpected, antithetical, and promising alter-forms.”
Brooklyn Rail
“Irene V. Small punctures and nuances some of the recurrent myths in accounts of the political commitments of Hélio Oiticica’s art practice in her monographic study of the artist.”
Art Journal
"By leading us through the mind of Oiticica—a task no less simple than a tour of Marcel Duchamp’s imagination—Small demonstrates that his engagement with the world was far more profound than merely asking viewers to participate in an artwork (although he certainly did this). Inviting us to behold Oiticica’s remarkably responsive and iconoclastic posture toward his environment, Small reveals that engaging with the structures of the fold and the frame prompted him to chart remarkably iconoclastic epistemologies.”
Bulletin of Spanish Visual Studies
Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame is based on an impressive amount of meticulous archival research, evident for example in some previously unpublished illustrations. There is powerful analysis of some less well-known works, such as Ready Constructible (1978–1979) and MadeOn-The-Body-Cape, a project that Oiticica completed following his Whitechapel experience (1970), enriching our knowledge of Oiticica’s practice and writings. Small's work contains sophisticated language and  continuous reference to a dense theoretical and historical heritage.
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