From Figuration to Conceptualism: A journey in Art History through sculpture

The exhibition is an invitation to know some of the historical moments of art – from academic style to modern expressions - through the sculptures on the outside of the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, including the Patio of Sculptures and its surroundings.

Photographic record of the exhibition "Hall of Sculptures" (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

The Sculpture Courtyard

The Sculpture Courtyard presents examples of figurative, naturalists works which complied to the systematic art taught in academies before modern movements. The author is Erbo Stenzel, from Curitiba, a pupil of João Turin and Escola Nacional de Belas Artes. Then, the first modern,  figurative but not realistic works appear, represented by the works of Francisco Stockinger and Bruno Giorgi. From then on, Modernism is presented in its many variations: Sérvulo Esmeraldo exhibits its merely suggested tridimensionality; Amélia Toledo proposes a reflection with double meaning; Franz Weissmann shows the result of the discussions on Concretism and Neo-Concretism in the 1950s, and Carla Vendrami puts a fence on the Courtyard, inviting the audience to jump not only the sculpture, but the barriers it represents. In the back, on the outcome of the ideas on the inclusion of sculpture in architecture, as well as of its unrest, the red scythe of Oscar Niemeyer beckons with the pacific title of “Shape in Space.” 

Water for the Hill (1944/2008) by Erbo StenzelOscar Niemeyer Museum

Water for the Hill | Erbo Stenzel

A black woman carrying a can of water on her head goes up the hill. Perhaps a commonplace scene in Rio de Janeiro in the 1940s, where the artist Erbo Stenzel studied sculpture. It was at the National School of Fine Arts where he met Anita (Emerenciana Cardoso Neves), the girl who served as a model for the sculpture “Água pro Morro” ("Water for the Hill"). Anita was then 25 years old and, as a simple coffee shop attendant, she became a model and later a school student. Erbo Stenzel presented the work at the National Salon of Fine Arts in 1944, craving the prize for travel abroad, but “Água pro Morro” was considered hors concours, that is, out of competition, given its superior quality.

Reclining Woman (1989) by Erbo StenzelOscar Niemeyer Museum

Recumbent Woman (“Mulher Reclinada”) | Erbo Stenzel

Sculpted in 1941, during the time when the artist studied in Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, “Recumbent Woman” represents a young female model posing on a stand. When the sculptor returned to Curitiba, in 1949, he brought the sculpture along with him. However, it rema ined forgotten. After it was recovered by the staff of Museu de Arte do Paraná, it was restored and, in 1990, a copy of it was made in bronze. From 1991 on, that copy was displayed in the garden of the ancient Palacete São Francisco, which was then the museum’s headquarters. In 2003, that work was finally transferred to Museu Oscar Niemeyer.

Worker's Torso (1941) by Erbo StenzelOscar Niemeyer Museum

A Worker’s Trunk (“Torso do Trabalhador”) | Erbo Stenzel

“A Worker’s Trunk” represents a man just in thong holding a work tool. It was made in plaster by the artist Erbo Stenzel, in 1941, as an academic work when he was in the third year of the Sculpture course in Escola Nacional de Belas Artes. The work in plaster, which  belongs to the artist’s family, received two copies in bronze in 1995, sponsored by the Municipality of Curitiba, one of which was set inside Curitiba Botanical Garden’s greenhouse, and the other which was donated to Museu de Arte do Paraná, and was posteriorly transferred to Museu Oscar Niemeyer, in 2003.

Skinny (2003) by Francisco StockingerOscar Niemeyer Museum

Thin Women (“Magrinhas”) | Francisco Stockinger

The sculpture master Francisco Stockinger became notorious for representing the human body in different aspects in an expressionist viewpoint. If in the series of sculptures of black-rat-men, beings that crawl like rats in cities looking for rests of food, the artist  depicts people of low height due to malnutrition, in the series called “Thin Women”, he depicts another aspect of life, if not life itself, represented on the female figure, and, therefore, the mother figure, which engenders and fosters existence.

The athlete (1951) by Bruno GiorgiOscar Niemeyer Museum

The Athlete (“O Atleta”) | Bruno Giorgi

The sculpture “The Athlete” represents a male image sat with its arms on a raised leg. The original version of the work was made in 1951, and the copy in bronze was made in 1970. “The Athlete” is part of a series named “Athletes”, in which Bruno Giorgi came to use bronze in its slender sculptures that are poor in details but rich in the essence of its form. 

Convergence of Horizons (1996) by Amélia ToledoOscar Niemeyer Museum

Horizons Convergence | Amélia Toledo

In the work “Convergência de Horizontes”, formed by the two pieces of metal “Fatias de Horizonte”(Horizon Slices), Amélia Toledo brings up considerations about time and its transience. The lower part of the work, made with oxidized metal, testifies to the passage of time, the past; the upper part, made of polished and stainless metal, which reflects the surrounding horizon, represents the present. A present, however, that tomorrow will also be spent, because the image in the mirror does not cease to change.

Untitled (Undated) by Carla VendramiOscar Niemeyer Museum

Untitled (“Sem título”) | Carla Vendrami

Carla Vendrami’s untitled work represents a set of geographic or social barriers, and presents a reflection on alterity. This limit or border between “me” and the other is part of a production regarding the search for identity through difference and individuality  through collectivity. In the process of searching for identity and individuality, one must overcome that border between “me” and the other, comprehending and accepting the difference, and understanding the relationship of interdependence that exists. One gets nearer and overcomes the border when one looks for common ground with the other, or when one gets free from the “illusion of neutrality”. People might believe to be neutral in society while they’re in a system of relations on which their survival depends, and they’re part of that network, influencing other lives.

Blue Structure (2002) by Manoel AraújoOscar Niemeyer Museum

Blue Structure (“Estrutura Azul”) | Emanoel Araújo

 “Blue Structure”, by Emanoel Araújo, reflects the transposition of the abstract, geometrical engraving of the artist to the three-dimensional field. In this passage, his production flirts with Concretism, born free of intentions besides being itself, with no meanings or keys for understanding the artist’s subjectivity; it’s nothing but a blue structure for the delight of one’s sight. However, the work came forth out of the search for simplifying form and color in the African art ideal. 

Shape of Space V (2002/2003) by Oscar NiemeyerOscar Niemeyer Museum

Shape in Space V (“Forma no Espaço V”) | Oscar Niemeyer

 “Shape in Space V” is part of a series of sculptures designed by Oscar Niemeyer. These red, winding shapes are present in many cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and even Monterrey, in Mexico. They refer to the scythe, once united tot he hammer on the Soviet Union flag, resurrected by the architect as a remembrance that society lies on the shoulders of workers, in the country or the city.

Mineral Flower (1999) by Franz WeissmannOscar Niemeyer Museum

Flor Mineral (Mineral Flower) | Franz Weissmann

“Flor Mineral” is an example of a production that transits between Concretism and Neoconcretism. While the former valued the abstract, the purity of the form worked with rationality, objectivity and exclusion of aggregate feelings, the latter proposed the resumption of subjectivity, of art not only as an object, but as a vehicle of expression. The artist Franz Weissmann was on both sides of this clash that happened in the 1950s.

Cube (2002) by Sérvulo EsmeraldoOscar Niemeyer Museum

Cube (“Cubo”) | Sérvulo Esmeraldo

The sculpture “Cube”, by Sérvulo Esmeraldo, is rather a set of suggestions. The two square frameworks that lie thinly on the ground suggest the presence of a cube with invisible lines in pairs. That cube, partially visible, suggests finally a volume in which one may magically penetrate.

Untitled (2002) by Tomie OhtakeOscar Niemeyer Museum

Untitled (“Sem título”) | Tomie Ohtake

Tomie Ohtake’s untitled work rises up as a gigantic white coil thrown up. It is a part of the series “Lines in Space” (“Linhas no Espaço”), works that materialize on the third dimension the free, gestural lines the artist used throughout her whole production of pantings in lyrical abstraction. With simplicity and lightness, the sculpture suggests flexibility and freedom, and invites one to perceive the surrounding void.

Aerial View - Oscar Niemeyer Museum (2010)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

External Works

The monumentality of Sergius Elderlyi's work, like an empty Abu-Simbel throne, dialogues with Oscar Niemeyer's building, awakening the ancestral notions of subjugation before the colossal. A few steps ahead, however, there is a warning: Não pare sobre os Olhos” (Don't stop over the Eyes). It is Eliane Prolik who makes the warning, inviting, with her conceptual work, to see what is beyond, what was before, what will be after, what is not… At the end of the path, the sumptuous appears again: nestled in the concrete, on pine barks, lurking the giant birds of Francisco Brennand, legendary birds that impressed travelers of the past and that mark the place of myth and art there.

Cones (2000) by Eduardo FrotaOscar Niemeyer Museum

Cones | Eduardo Frota

The set of “Cones” by Eduardo Frota is an installation that leans not only on visuals but also on physicality, seeking to offer an experience of the senses to the visitors when they come across objects or when they walk through the empty spaces between them. Form itself is less important. What matters is the monumentality of the object regarding the environment and the people, raising at least concepts on relativity.

Cones (2000) by Eduardo FrotaOscar Niemeyer Museum

Palm tree (2007) by Elizabeth TittonOscar Niemeyer Museum

Palm Tree (“Palmeira”) | Elizabeth Titton

“Palm Tree” refers to the series of sculptures called “In Natura”, which comprises 37 trees made of metal plates cut with laser, made by Elizabeth Titton. In this series, the artist allies art to industry, making the work of art’s reproduction easier but assuring its quality. “In Natura” evokes affective memories of the artist and marks the development of her experiences with sculpture since the 1970s.

Master's Chair (Undated) by Sergius ErdelyiOscar Niemeyer Museum

The Master’s Chair (“Cadeira do Mestre”) | Sergius Erdelyi

“The Master’s Chair’, with 5.20 meters in height, seems to be empty, waiting for the arrival of a master just as colossal. However, nature is that being, the Creator and its own reflection. Therefrom, He observes who comes in and who goes out, the grass and the grove just in front, the sky and the trees; thus, He observes Himself. That gaze upon nature comes from an artist that throughout his life devoted himself to reforestation and environmental conservation,

Don't stop looking (2003/2004) by Eliane ProlikOscar Niemeyer Museum

Don’t Stop Looking (“Não Pare de Olhar”) | Eliane Prolik

“Don’t Stop Looking” is part of the series “Don’t Stop over the Eyes,” made by Eliane Prolik between 2003 and 2004. The artist appropriated urban signposts, and brought forth the reflection on many themes relevant to civilization, such as freedom, conditioning, automatism, alienation, information and communication. “Don’t Stop Looking”, specifically, is an invitation for one to read, but while one does it, “not to stop over the eyes”, that is, to realize what’s not written, or what lies beyond the visible.

Roc Bird (2004) by Francisco BrennandOscar Niemeyer Museum

Bird Rocca (“Pássaro Rocca”) | Francisco Brennand

Winding shapes that linger from the nests represent the bird Rocca, a gigantic, predatory bird that became notorious for appearing in “Sinbad, the Sailor” and in “Abd al-man, the Story of Rocca from Magreb”, both short stories from “One Thousand and One Nights.” 
The origin of the bird may be Indian mythology and there are also references about him in the writings of Marco Polo (1254-1324).

Ecological Interference (1985) by Elvo Benito DamoOscar Niemeyer Museum

Ecological Interference | Elvo Benito Damo

 “Ecological Interference” is part of a series of sculptures started by the artist Elvo Benito Damo in the 1970s which framework was made of wood, iron and cement. Those sculptures represented a criticism against deforestation and the destruction of nature. Since the  wheel was conceived, more than five thousand years ago, it has symbolized progress; however, in “Ecological Interference”, it symbolizes – through the clash between wood and metal – the consequences of that progress. The sculpture was made in 1985 on the request of Roberto Luiz Gandolfi, an architect from São Paulo, to decorate the front of the Citibank Building (1984), projected by him. It remained in front of the bank until 2019.

Credits: Story

Text: Ricardo Freire
Photography: Marcello Kawase, Rômulo Fialdini e Deniz Abruzzo

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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