Gente Ampli2* is a digital alteration of a photograph documenting a protest in Praça da Sé, a public square in São Paulo. After pulling the source image from a local newspaper, Cordeiro subjected it to a process of manual digitization, using an orthogonal grid to divide the composition and then carefully assigning each square a value, ranging from zero to six, corresponding to the area’s tonality. Transcribing these values into symbols that produced different shades of gray, he then enlarged and reprinted the modified image using an IBM 360 computer at the State University of Campinas in Brazil, where he had founded the Arts Institute that year. Twenty years earlier, in 1952, Cordeiro had been a founding member and lead theoretician of Grupo Ruptura, an influential movement of artists that promoted geometric abstraction and Concrete art—expressions based on form, line, and color as opposed to illusionistic depictions of the natural world. Later on, as director of the university’s Center for Image Processing, Cordeiro was among the first artists to use computation as a means for art-making.
Part of a larger series of prints depicting popular gatherings, Gente Ampli2* dates from Brazil’s so-called Years of Lead (1968–74), the most severely repressive period of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for more than two decades. Through its analytical approach, the digital print restores the anonymity of the image’s subjects, preserving instead the collective identity of the critical mass, captured while exercising their democratic right to protest.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)