In the early 1960s, a number of Brazilian artists pushed on the phenomenological demands of painting and sculpture to develop an unprecedented form of participatory art consisting of objects and environments that solicited their viewers’ bodily action and use. This book will examine intersecting notions of development (art-historical, economic, and biological) in the emergence of this participatory paradigm, focusing in particular on the work of Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980), a forerunner to many of the social and relational concerns of contemporary art. Based on meticulous archival research—completed before the Rio de Janeiro fire that destroyed much of Oiticica’s work in late 2009—Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame offers an alternative approach to the utopian art-into-life narrative that has long characterized experimental art of the 1960s and Brazilian participatory art in particular. It makes the case that the efficacy of participatory works by Oiticica and such contemporaneous Brazilian artists as Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape lay not in their renunciation of art, but rather in their ability to act as embodied epistemological structures for their users—modes of conceptual intervention within the texture of everyday life.
Irene V. Small teaches contemporary art and criticism at Princeton University. Her recent articles include “Exit and Impasse: Ferreira Gullar and the ‘New History’ of the Last Avant-Garde” (Third Text), “Material Remains: On the Afterlife of Hélio Oiticica’s Work” (Artforum), “Believing in Art: The Votive Structures of Conceptual Art” (Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics), and “Site and Sociality: Joseph Beuys and the Relics of Modernist Sculpture” (Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin). With Tumelo Mosaka she is curating the exhibition “Blind Field,” which features twenty emerging and mid-career artists working in Brazil and which opens at the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in January 2013. She received her PhD from Yale University.