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Radical Geometry - Royal Academy of Arts

Lygia Clark. Machine - Medium, 1962. Golden aluminum, approx. 48.2 x 66.1 x 61 cm. Coleccion Patricia Phelps de Cisneros c. The World of Lygia Clark Cultural Association.

Exhibition preview

RADICAL Geometry: Modern Art of South America from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection will be on display in the Sackler Wing of the Royal Academy of Arts from July 5 to September 28, 2014.

The exhibition will span a dynamic period in South American art, charting the emergence of several distinct artistic movements in the cities of Montevideo (Uruguay), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Caracas (Venezuela), from the 1930s to the 1970s.

It will explore the development of an innovative abstract visual language that captured the positive spirit of the time and conveyed the radical aspirations of a young generation of artists.

Comprising over 80 paintings and sculptures, the exhibition is chiefly drawn from the Collection of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, the foremost collection of geometric abstract art from Latin America in private hands. Additional loans are from the Museum of Modern Art, New York, donated by Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Many of the works on display will not previously have been seen in the UK.

The exhibition will first present the early artistic revolutions of the ‘Rio de la Plata’ (River Plate) region, named after the river that divides the cities of Montevideo and Buenos Aires.

It will document several key movements, beginning in the 1930s with the return of Uruguayan artist Joaquin Torres Garcia to Montevideo and his declaration of a new revolutionary art, drawing on indigenous American influences, later called the ‘School of the South’.

A decade later, a group of artists from across the water in Buenos Aires, including Carmelo Arden Quin, Tomas Maldonado and Gyula Kosice, founded their own artistic movements – ‘Arte Madi’ and ‘Arte Concreto-Invencion’ to challenge the customs and confines of traditional painting.

With a proclamation by artist Rhod Rothfuss in 1944 to abandon the conventional picture frame, the distinction between painting and sculpture also came to be blurred, as seen in one of the highlights of this section, Juan Mele’s Irregular Frame No 2, 1946.

Boundary-breaking art from Brazil, produced throughout the 1950s-60s, features in the second part of the exhibition, which will reveal new approaches to painting and sculpture in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Inspired in part by Concrete Poetry, monochrome, linear works such as Lygia Pape’s Untitled (from the series Weaving), 1959, Geraldo de Barros’ Diagonal Function, 1952, and Helio Oiticica’s Painting 9, 1959, will be displayed alongside playful and interactive sculptures by Lygia Clark including Machine – Medium, 1962, from her noted ‘Bichos’ series.

These works reflect the optimistic and outward-looking stance of an internationally ambitious, post-war Brazilian society, with art at its centre.

The exhibition concludes in Caracus, Venezuela, where works by Jesus Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez lean towards kinetic art. Jesus Soto’s Physichromie No 500, 1970, acts as a ‘light trap’, using a series of colour frames to create a work that changes colour with the movement of the visitor.

Sculptures by Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt), such as Trunk, 1976, and Sphere, 1976, will offer a sense of spiritual calmness with their delicate, line-based structure. Whilst utilising modern materials, Gego’s sculptures were made by hand, eschewing the technological innovations and machinery of the modern age.

Radical Geometry: Modern Art of South America from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection will reveal vibrant and distinctive visual cultures, developed independently of each other within a fifty-year period across Latin America.

Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, Founder, Fundacion Cisneros said:

“For over four decades the Fundacion Cisneros has been dedicated to increasing awareness of the rich heritage and dynamic cultures of Latin America. The Royal Academy of Arts shares with the Fundacion Cisneros a commitment to the support of artists and artistic scholarship.

“I am delighted that the Royal Academy will be displaying some of the finest works of the Coleccion Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, allowing its audience to discover new artists and advancing knowledge and understanding of Latin American visual culture.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a 192-page fully illustrated catalogue with contributions from Gabriel Perez-Barreiro, Amalia Maria Garcia, Isobel Whitelegg and Dr Adrian Locke.

Radical Geometry Gallery

Admission: £10 full price; concessions available; children under 12 and Friends of the RA go free.

Times: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5.30pm); Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm).

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD

Tel: 020 7300 8000


Also at the Royal Academy of Arts: Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album, an exhibition presenting more than 400 original photographs taken between 1961 and 1967 by Dennis Hopper, the American actor, film director and artist (June 29 to October 19, 2014).