Twelve ink drawings by Hércules Barsotti explore a radical geometry and a systematic mode of working that, already in 1960, point to a new mode of working for the Brazilian artist.
This text was originally published under the theme “Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Research Institute for the Study of Art from Latin America.” The original content items in this theme can be found here.
Hércules Barsotti, who belonged to a generation of great artists from Brazil, traveled extensively in Europe at multiple times, first in the late 1940s and then again throughout the 1950s, when he met a figure who would become foundational to his practice and those of many of his peers, Max Bill. In 1954 Barsotti opened a graphic design studio in São Paolo with his life partner Willys de Castro (whose achievements sometimes overshadowed his own), but he remained committed to his art. In the 1950s his work turned to a radical geometry that is devoid of any trace of his hand or brush and is simplified to the extreme.
The twelve drawings coming to MoMA from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros might be among his greatest works. Each drawing is made of two or three lines originating from either opposite angles or opposites edges of the paper. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that these lines not only never intersect but also run parallel in their last segment, creating the impression of shifting planes. These works represent multiple variations of the same idea. As a whole, the series seems already to point to a new mode of working, in which the artist exhausted the possibilities generated by a system, an idea that would become increasingly popular among other artists in the second half of the 1960s.
Colorhythms, a group of works by Venezuelan artist Alejandro Otero made in the 1940s and 1950s, are vertical or horizontal rectangular paintings that unfold in countless serial compositional variations.