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Last Chance to Experience HÉlio Oiticica: to Organize Delirium at the Art Institute


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Chicago- Hélio Oiticica (1937–80) is arguably the most influential Latin American artist of the post–World War II period. This exhibition offers the first retrospective in the United States of the Brazilian artist’s brief but energetic career. Exploring adventurously elegant works on paper from early in Oiticica’s career (1955–58) through later installations where his art took on an increasingly immersive nature, it transforms the viewer from a spectator to an active participant or “participator.” Visitors are invited to take off their shoes and walk through sand-filled installations, view Amazonian parrots, and try on exhibition copies of Oiticica’s Parangolés, objects he created to be carried or worn and among the artist’s most radical contributions to contemporary art.

“The only thing that’s really left of the great invention, something that will mobilize the participator, formerly the spectator…The artist must lead the participator to what I call a state of invention.” (Hélio Oiticica, 1979)

The exhibition, running through May 7, focuses on Oiticica’s ability to seamlessly meld formal and social concerns in his art, seeking to be internationally relevant and, at the same time, specifically Brazilian. In his most famous work, Tropicália (1967), he brings together a series of clichés associated with tropicalness—sand, gravel, exotic birds, and lush foliage—which was contrasted with a television monitor that emits continuous images and sounds. Tropicália, a name subsequently borrowed by the musician Caetano Veloso for his anthem against Brazil’s dictatorship, became a powerful movement in all the arts—a political position both against the right’s conservatism and the left’s desire for a purely Brazilian art.


Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Hélio Oiticica. PN27 Rijanviera, 1979. César and Claudio Oiticica Collection, Rio de Janeiro. Photo courtesy Edouard Fraipont.


At the Art Institute of Chicago, lead funding is generously provided by the Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation.
Major support is provided by Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation.
Additional support is provided by the Maureen and Edward Byron Smith Jr. Family Endowment Fund, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Sara Szold.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Annual support for Art Institute exhibitions is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation; Jay Franke and David Herro; Kenneth Griffin; Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Robert M. and Diane v.S. Levy; Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff; Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal; Thomas and Margot Pritzker; Anne and Chris Reyes; Betsy Bergman Rosenfield and Andrew M. Rosenfield; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation; and the Woman’s Board.


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