This gouache drawing presents a group of black rectangles tilting rhythmically toward each other in a mirrored disposition: an imaginary axis runs vertically through the center of the work, dividing the composition into nearly symmetrical halves.
Oiticica was only twenty years old when he began working on his Metaesquemas series, which would eventually comprise more than 350 compositions. The Metaesquemas (Meta-Schemes) were pivotal in the young artist’s career, marking the shift from two-dimensional to three-dimensional space that he would pursue in his practice in subsequent years. He later described this series as exercises in the “obsessive dissection of space” aimed at destabilizing the spatial conventions of Concrete painting, a rationalist movement that promoted geometric abstraction and had dominated art-making in Brazil since the early 1950s. Indeed, the dynamic compositions in Oiticica’s Metaesquemas introduced an unprecedented range of whimsicality, upending the primacy and stability of the grid. The vibrating picture planes also subtly anticipated Oiticica’s ambition to transform viewers into active participants, a strategy that was formalized shortly thereafter in the 1959 manifesto of the Neo-Concrete movement, which counted Oiticica as one of its main proponents.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Geometric abstraction flourished from the 1930s through the 1970s in the art centers of Latin America, notably Buenos Aires, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. Oiticica, who was based in Rio de Janeiro, experimented with geometric abstraction in the late 1950s. Works in the Metaesquemas series are composed of squares and rectangles, usually against a pale background, reflecting the influence of Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian. Arranged in a gridlike structure but without complete regularity, his shapes seem to rhythmically shift and float slightly off the surface of the paper.
Gallery label from Geo/Metric: Prints and Drawings from the Collection, June 11–August 18, 2008.