The Adolpho Leirner Collection celebrates the collection of Brazilian Constructive Art from the 1950s and 60s formed by the São Paulo-based art patron, Adolpho Leirner. Stimulated by the post-World War II economic boom and a surge in modernization that sought to place Brazil at the vanguard of the region’s social and cultural development, these decades represent what was perhaps one of the most dynamic enclaves of artistic activity in the Western Hemisphere. Two paramount events defined the utopian spirit of this time: the establishment of the São Paulo Biennial in 1951 and the inauguration of Brasília, the futuristic new capital, in 1960. Energized by these unprecedented achievements, artists from the São Paulo-Rio de Janeiro axis embraced the legacies of Russian Constructivism, Dutch Neo-Plasticism, and, above all, the German School of Ulm to create the unique yet highly modulated voice of Brazilian modernism. Acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from 2005 to 2007, this collection has been regarded as a brilliant window into the seminal decades of modernization in Brazil.  Among the cutting-edge artists and groups represented are Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, Alfredo Volpi, Grupo Ruptura, and Grupo Frente. Comprised of nearly one hundred objects, the Adolpho Leirner Collection is here presented separately in six curatorial clusters, organized thematically: Samson Flexor and Atelier Abstração, The Graphic Arts and Design, Grupo ruptura and Arte Concreta, Grupo Frente, Neo-Concretos, and The Independents. 
About Adolpho Leirner
The son of Polish Jewish immigrants who arrived in Brazil in the 1930s, Adolpho Leirner was born in 1935 in the city of São Paulo. In 1953 he went to England to study textile engineering and design. During his four-year stay, he became acquainted with the legacy of the international Constructivist movements of the first half of the 20th century. At the same time, he developed a passion for architecture and design. Upon his return to Brazil in the late 1950s, Leirner focused his attention on Brazilian decorative arts and contemporary art. In 1961 he bought the first work of what would later constitute his unique collection: Em vermelho [In Red] (1958) by the artist Milton Dacosta (1915–88). Naturally drawn to Brazilian constructivism, he noticed its disappearance from the public’s attention in the 1960s, as the emergence of figure-based trends such as Pop Art flourished. At that point, Leirner decided to concentrate his collecting efforts on Brazilian geometric abstraction. Largely through his direct contact with living artists and influential dealers, he was able to systematically gather exemplary works of these key movements in his country. As an art collector, Leirner combines both a passion for art as well as a sense of social responsibility. In a well-publicized statement about the meaning and purpose of collecting taken from his superb book, Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection, he describes his motto: “To collect is to nurture a love affair, a passion; it is to uncover findings in a game of search and find, all of which are part of my life.” At the same time, he underscored the ethical responsibility that comes with collecting: “...collectors understand they gather their collections not only for private fruition but for the benefit of society, and for this reason they keep and preserve them.”
The Graphic Arts
The Adolpho Leirner Collection boasts original exhibition posters, invitations, and preparatory drawings dating from 1951 to 1967, designed by artists who embraced the principles of Arte Concreta and the theoretical principles elaborated by the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg (1883–1931) in 1930 and the Swiss artist Max Bill (1908–94).  The formal rigor and focus on geometry as a means to achieve clarity in design shaped the work of these artists, who were also active graphic, landscape, and industrial designers.  Among them are Geraldo de Barros (1923–98) and Alexandre Wollner (b. 1928), both former students of the celebrated Hochschule für Gestaltung (School of Design), in Ulm, Germany.  The work of the São Paulo-based Grupo ruptura—whose members included Waldemar Cordeiro (1925–73), Lothar Charoux (1912–87), Luis Sacilotto (1924–2003), and Anatol Wladislaw (1913–2004)—also straddled design.   Other artists who made important contributors to field of design include Antônio Maluf (1926–2005), Norberto Nicola (1930–2007), Willys de Castro (1926–98) and Goebel Weyne (b. 1933).  The Collection’s holdings include Maluf’s Cartaz da I Bienal de São Paulo [Poster for the First São Paulo Biennial], 1951 (and a study for this poster); the seminal manifesto of Grupo rutptura (1952); Nicola’s Convite de exposição do Atelier-Abstração no MAM-SP, an Invitation for the Exhibition of Atelier Abstração, 1956; and the poster for the Primeira Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta [First National Exhibition of Concrete Art], 1956; among other works.
Credits: Story

The majority of the text in this exhibition appeared in the exhibition Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection, presented at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from May 20 to September 23, 2007. The exhibition was organized by Mari Carmen Ramírez, The Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and Director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas.

Our sincere thanks to Adolpho Leirner, Mari Carmen Ramírez, María C. Gaztambide, Marty Stein, Matthew Lawson, Flora Brooks, and the Google Cultural Institute.

Design: Beatriz Olivetti and María Beatriz McGreger, ICAA-MFAH

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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