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Sneak Peek: Hélio Oiticica

Opening on Friday to the public, Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium is the first U.S. retrospective for arguably the most influential Latin American artist of the post-World War II period. Oiticica is known for always pushing the boundaries of traditional art, and the exhibition spans everything from the artist's early works on paper (some made while he was still a teenager!) to large-scale installations that are meant to be physically experienced. 

The images in this post offer a sneak peek of Oiticica's most famous work, Tropicália (1967). This immersive installation was the artist's first architecturally-scaled piece to be fully realized. It brings together a series of clichés associated with tropicalness—sand, gravel, exotic birds, and lush foliage—and contrasts them with a monitor that emits footage from a local TV station. The installation also includes two Penetrables, the red and orange structures seen above, which reference the squalid makeshift structures of the Mangueira (a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro) favela.

Tropicália also functions as a critique of Brazil—it encompasses the country's mythic beauty as well as its conflicted contemporary identity.

Above all, Oiticica aimed to transform the viewer from a spectator to an active participant and to communicate to his audiences the deep pleasure and satisfaction inherent in creative work. In that spirit, visitors to the exhibition are invited to take their shoes off and walk through the sand, explore the Penetrables, and listen to the squawking birds (more on them in a later post). We invite you to experience Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, on view at the Art Institute through May 13.