Thursday Doors: Helio Oiticica


Before building full sized structures that one could enter, Oiticica created 3D works such as this, which hangs from the ceiling.

For Norm’s Thursday Doors feature this week, I am contributing something somewhat different. On Tuesday, my husband and I visited the Chicago Art Institute. I was especially interested in a special exhibit by Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980). Oiticica was born in Rio de Janeiro and during his 25-year career he created works to appeal to all the senses. Rather than paintings on a flat surface, his work featured structures that you can walk in, around, and on, to experience the space in a variety of ways.


Dale stands next to the entrance to a small “bolide” – a 3D structure that is meant to be experienced in a variety of ways. We were not allowed to go into this one, however.


Looks like a comfy mattress inside!

To fully appreciate “Tropicália” or “Eden” as this particular installation is called, you could take your shoes and socks off and walk around on the sandy surface – the same feeling you get when walking on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. There were other surfaces too – gravel (hard on bare feet!), a bed of leaves, water, and more.


This structure was in a large work entitled “Eden”, which combined different elements of the Brazilian tropics – sand, plants, parrots, water, music and poetry.

Other “rooms” to play in:

Partial views of the installation “Eden”:

This structure with walls of cloth could be explored inside. It is meant to evoke the makeshift houses of the favelas, shantytowns.

The doorway:



Some homeless people in Brazil put up tents in parks, while others use tents to explore their country on the cheap. This tent in the “Tropicalia” installation contained headphones through which you heard a song being sung by the Brazilian singer Gal Costa.


Yes, there were large green and yellow parrots too!

Another installation, called “Filter Project” had plastic colored sheeting at the entryways, so that what you saw was filtered through those colors. They represent the bright colors of the Brazilian urban landscape.  During Brazil’s military dictatorship, Oiticica spent several years living in New York. He created “Filter Project” in New York in 1972, for an exposition in Rio de Janeiro. This was the height of the dictatorship and the project is also an expression of his anger and concern for his country.


While many of the installations are replicas, the one below is an original. It, too, is meant to be explored, but we could not go inside because the museum is making some adjustments to make sure it is strong enough to experience safely.


The artist in New York in the 1960s:





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