Color and light in the MAM São Paulo collection: exhibition features a selection of Brazilian abstract art

Curated by Cauê Alves and Fábio Magalhães, the exhibition Dialogues with color and light takes to Sala Paulo Figueiredo more than 70 works by artists such as Abraham Palatnik, Alfredo Volpi, Lygia Clark, Tomie Ohtake and Paulo Pasta.


The Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo features, until 28 de Mayo, at Sala Paulo Figueiredo, the exhibition Dialogues with color and light. Curated by Cauê Alves and Fábio Magalhães, the exhibition brings a selection of abstract art in the Museum's collection, focusing on the relationship between color and light in Brazilian painting in the second half of the 20th century 20.

the body of exhibition is made up of paintings by artists Abraham Palatnik, Alfredo Volpi, Almir Mavignier, Amelia Toledo, Arthur Luiz Piza, Cássio Michalany, Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Lothar Charoux, Luiz Aquila, Lygia Clark, Manabu Mabe, Marco Giannotti, Maria Leontina, Mauricio Nogueira Lima, Mira Schendel, Paulo Pasta, Rubem Valentim, Sérgio Sister, Takashi Fukushima, Thomaz Ianelli, Tomie Ohtake, Alone Nery and Yolanda Mohalyi.

“The exhibition deals with the chromatic sensitivity, of light vibration fields and temporality, as well as the construction of spaces and atmospheres based on color”, explains Cauê Alves, chief curator of MAM. “We brought together several generations of artists in the space, without privileging trends or establishing chronological order. We mix times and languages, to encourage our look to the perception of similarities and differences between the various visual poetics in the different treatments of light and color”, complete Fábio Magalhães, board member of MAM São Paulo.


The expography carried out by the architect Haron Cohen divided the Sala Paulo Figueiredo with radial panels, in reference to the color wheel, an optical experiment by Isaac Newton (1643-1727) published in 1707 in your book Opticks. in publication, the English mathematician and physicist demonstrates, through a disc of seven colors (red, Violet, Indigo blue, cyan blue, green, yellow and orange), his theory that the white light of the Sun is formed by the hues of the rainbow.

The curatorship brought color and light to the public as autonomous expressions, as values ​​in themselves, and not as something that seeks to represent or establish relationships of similarity with the real world – the blue of the sky, for example.

“In abstract painting, there are multiple approaches to color and light as a pictorial language: of harmony, breaking off, contrast, continuity, complementarity, tonal variation and vibration, among many other forms of expression. The light establishes the tonalities and acts in the chromatic relations and in the construction of space”, explains Magalhães.

Abraham Palatnik, in their Kinechromatic Apparatus (1969/86), presents light-colors in movements constructed from machines and lamps, while other artists closer to the constructive tradition and on art, like Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Lothar Charoux and Maurício Nogueira Lima, use geometric shapes and more stable colors to structure their compositions. with certain recurrence, Charoux explores dark backgrounds and shadows from which light rays emerge. Be more graphic, as in Almir Mavignier's posters, whether in the African matrix symbology of Rubem Valentim, the color structures the composition.

Mira Schendel uses graphic elements in her composition, but, as Alves explains in his curatorial text, does not renounce the ecoline or the light of gold leaf to deal with metaphysical issues. Already the screen White (1995), by Amelia Toledo, brings a light that emanates from the meeting of the paint with the texture of the canvas. Arthur Luiz Piza obtains the light in his engravings through geometric incisions in metal plates; some resemble mosaics and spill over into three-dimensional space. Alfredo Volpi, the color master, mainly with its masts and squares, insinuates movements and glazing over the canvas, causing squares or rectangles to warp. The bright green of Composition (1953), by Lygia Clark – from the beginning of her trajectory, when she devoted herself to painting –, contrasts with the light and dark lines and shapes that float across the screen.

According to the curator, Maria Leontina and Tomie Ohtake also approach geometry in a sensorial way, and color is one of the fundamentals of his paintings. Leontina makes use of planes of color and movement to imprint a temporal dimension on her work.. Ohtake already, especially on the big screen 1989, uses jagged contours to shape an illuminated circle that pulsates from a deep blue background, indicating an expansion movement of a possible celestial body. Manabu Mabe, Takashi Fukushima, Luiz Aquila and Thomaz Ianelli approach the report, of a universe of calligraphy, in a sometimes more spontaneous abstraction, now more controlled. The movements and gestures evident in her works keep color and light as foundations that support the whole.. Wega Nery and Yolanda Mohalyi approach an expressionist abstraction, lyrical and gestural, even though there may be a design dimension in their canvases, with more rectangular spots.

Cássio Michalany, instead of painting shapes, makes the chassis of your painting indicate the shape of the canvas. With few elements, a single homogeneous color assumes the protagonism of his work. Sérgio Sister draws attention to the plan, and his painting explores textures, sparkles and luminosities that guide the observer's gaze. Paulo Pasta works on the relationships between tones, colors and lights from recurring forms in his work, a kind of columns. Through balanced compositions, it's as if time were momentarily suspended until the thickness of colors and lights is actually perceived. As paintings by Marco Giannotti, a scholar of color, stay between figuration and abstraction and explore images of windows, grids and structures from which emanate lights that seem to come from inside the canvas.

 “At a time when discourses and narratives are embedded within artistic production, in which even colors seem to be dominated by objective meanings that determine them both politically and symbolically, reasserting your autonomy may seem retrograde. However, dialogues with color and light, as well as the links between color and space, structure and time, can expand the possibilities of understanding art beyond the here and now and replace the ambiguity and openness of art’s meanings”, reflects Cauê Alves.

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Magalhães also recalls that,  last century, MAM São Paulo played a significant role in the introduction and diffusion of abstraction trends in Brazil. “Two examples deserve mention.: the museum's inaugural exhibition, From Figurativism to Abstractionism, held in March 1949 by Leon Degand (1907-1958) – which contradicted its title by bringing together only abstract works, among them five screens of W. Kandinsky –, and the Rupture exhibition, in December 1952, which started the concretist movement in Brazilian art, with the publication of its manifesto”, he counts.

Dialogues with color and light is part of a program of MAM celebrations, with 75 years of the museum and the 30 years of your Sculpture Garden.

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It is also available for sale at MAM's physical store. bilingual exhibition catalog, with texts in Portuguese and English, and full reproduction of images from 73 works. The publication brings together texts signed by Elizabeth Machado, president of MAM, Cauê Alves, museum chief curator, and Fabio Magalhães, museum advisor and exhibition curator. In addition to images and texts, the catalog also features a reproduction of a drawing by architect Haron Cohen, referring to the expographic project he developed for the exhibition.

About MAM São Paulo

Founded in 1948, the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo is a civil society of public interest, nonprofit. Its collection has more than 5 thousand works produced by the most representative names of modern and contemporary art, mainly Brazilian. Both the collection and the exhibitions privilege experimentalism, opening up to the plurality of world artistic production and the diversity of interests of contemporary societies.

The Museum maintains a wide range of activities that include courses, seminars, lectures, performances, musical shows, video sessions and artistic practices. The content of the exhibitions and activities is accessible to all audiences through guided tours in pounds, audio description of works and video guides in Libras. the collection of books, newspapers, documents and audiovisual material is formed by 65 1000 titles. The exchange with museum libraries in several countries keeps the collection alive.

Located in Ibirapuera Park, the most important green area in São Paulo, the MAM building was adapted by Lina Bo Bardi and has, beyond the exhibition halls, with studio, Library, Auditorium, restaurant and a shop where visitors find designer products, art books and a line of MAM-branded objects. The Museum spaces are visually integrated with the Sculpture Garden, designed by Roberto Burle Marx and Haruyoshi Ono to house works from the collection. All facilities are accessible to visitors with special needs.


Dialogues with color and light [coletiva com Abraham Palatnik, Alfredo Volpi, Almir Mavignier, Amelia Toledo, Arthur Luiz Piza, Cássio Michalany, Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Lothar Charoux, Luiz Aquila, Lygia Clark, Manabu Mabe, Marco Giannotti, Maria Leontina, Mauricio Nogueira Lima, Mira Schendel, Paulo Pasta, Rubem Valentim, Sérgio Sister, Takashi Fukushima, Thomaz Ianelli, Tomie Ohtake, Wega Nery and Yolanda Mohalyi]
Exhibition period: until 28 May 2023
Curated By: Cauê Alves and Fabio Magalhães
Local: Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, Paulo Figueiredo Room
Address: Ibirapuera park (Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral, s/nº – gates 1 and 3)
Timetables: Tuesday to Sunday, das 10h às 18h (with last admission at 5:30 pm) 
Tickets: BRL 25.00 full and BRL 12.50 half price. On Sundays, Admission is free and visitors can contribute whatever amount they want.

*Half price for students, with identification; low-income youth and seniors (+60). Free for children under 10 years; people with disabilities and companion; teachers and directors of the state and municipal public network of São Paulo, with identification; MAM members and students; employees of partner companies and museums; ICOM members, HERE is ABCA, with identification; SPTuris employees and employees of the Municipal Secretariat of Culture.

Phone: (11) 5085-1300
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