“The new work of art is not stagnant. This new object placed within the sensible world [becomes] an active object.” This description of Willys de Castro’s Active Object series appeared in the Brazilian magazine Habitat in 1960. At the time, the artist was working on a group of sculptures and painted wall reliefs in which he often wrapped a wooden plank or pole with painted canvas. The rhythmic color-block patterns of these works call attention to their edges and invite the viewer to circle them, “activating” the space between object and audience, a central ambition of the Neo-Concrete artists.
Gallery label from Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction—The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift, October 21, 2019–March 14, 2020
Between 1959 and 1963 De Castro made a series of sculptures and painted wall reliefs he called Active Objects. The simple, rhythmic color pattern in this work shifts as a viewer circles it, "activating" the space between object and viewer. In 1959 De Castro joined the Brazilian Neo-Concrete art movement, which in its founding manifesto cites Piet Mondrian as a "true artist." Like Mondrian, Neo-Concretists believed in the power of abstract art to communicate universally, transcending specific circumstances. De Castros work was included in the 1960 exhibition Concrete Art: 50 Years of Development, organized in Zurich by Max Bill.
Gallery label from 2010.