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Concretism, a term incorporating a broad panoply of Brazilian neovanguardist movements in the plastic arts and in literature launched in the 1950s and active through the 1970s. The term "concrete," drawing on "concrete music" of the early European musical vanguards, refers in Brazilian poetics to a rigidly simplified and exteriorized structure of composition based on the mathematical, graphic, and spatial awareness of artistic language as object. It also came to refer to a syncretic tradition of literary innovation in the art of representation, exemplified by certain modernist writers such as Stéphane Mallarmé and Ezra Pound. Brazilian concretism is largely circumscribed and defined by the Poesia Concreta (Concrete Poetry) movement of São Paulo, with its international and universalizing dimensions, that has proved to be highly influential on subsequent literary theory and production.

The constructivist, rationalist, and mathematical structures in the geometrical abstractionism of Max Bill and Eugen Gomringer at the I Bienal De São Paulo in 1951 influenced the formative phase of Brazilian neovanguard groups in the plastic arts. Abstract Brazilian art was exhibited by the Grupo Ruptura at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art in 1952, followed by the I Exposição Nacional de Arte Abstrata (Petrópolis, 1953), the Grupo Frente de Artistas Plásticos (Instituto Brasil-Estados Unidos/Rio de Janeiro, 1954), and the first Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta at the Museum of Modern Art (São Paulo, 1956). The definitive launching of the concrete aesthetic as a polemical, experimental movement occurred at the Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta at the Ministry of Education in Rio de Janeiro (4-11 February 1957). Later concretist groups include the short-lived neoconcretism of Rio de Janeiro, Mário Chamie's "poema praxis," and Waldimir Dias Pino's "poema processo."

The concrete poems of São Paulo provided con-cretism with an extensive theoretical apparatus and many literary works published in their magazines Invenção and Noigandres in the 1950s and later codified in Teoria de poesia concreta (1965; Theory of Concrete Poetry). Viewing their work as a continuation of experimentalism and aesthetic modernization, of which João Cabral De Melo Neto's O engenheiro (1945; The Engineer) is a credible predecessor, the Paulista concrete poets—Décio Pignatari, Haroldo de Campos, and Augusto de Campos, with the participation at different times of Ronaldo de Azeredo, Edgar Braga, José Lino Grünewald, José Paulo Paes, Dias Pino, Ferreira Gullar, and others—defined concrete works as the "tension of word-objects in space-time" and sought to relate concrete poetry to international graphic and representational trends. Supporting theory includes a synthetic chronology of texts by such diverse figures as Mallarmé, Pound, James Joyce, Paul Klee, e. e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, Anton von Webern, and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

At the same time, through its rejection of discursive writing and its radical revision of artistic form through semiotics, concrete poetry took a position in the open debate of the early 1960s on national literary values, particularly the role of experimental art in underdevelopment. Poetry was to embody the constructive rationality and the aesthetic sensibilities of the concrete city. After 1968, concrete poetry sought association with the Tropicália counterculture movement in popular music and with the anthropophagic critical metaphors of modernist writer Oswald de Andrade. Critical dimensions are present in many of the most widely read and cited poems: Pignatari's "Beba Coca Cola" (Drink Coca Cola set to music by composer Gilberto Mendes); Augusto de Campos's "Luxo lixo" (Luxury garbage); and Haroldo de Campos's "Servidão de passagem" (Passageway).

Recovery of a Brazilian literary tradition of innovation and translation of world poetry are two complementary areas of concretist production. The poetry of Oswald de Andrade, Sousândrade, and Pedro Kilkerry was republished with critical studies, while selected works of Joyce, Pound, cummings, William Blake, and troubadour poets, Dante, and others were translated into Portuguese.

See alsoArt: The Twentieth Century; Literature: Brazil; Modernism, Brazil.


Brazilian concrete works can be found in such English anthologies as Mary Ellen Solt, ed., Concrete Poetry: A World View (1968), and Emmet Williams, ed., An Anthology of Concrete Poetry (1967). For scholarly views, see Douglas Thompson, "Pound and Brazilian Concretism," Paideuma (Winter 1977): 279-294; Claus Clüver, "Languages of the Concrete Poem," in Transformations of Literary Language in Latin American Literature, edited by K. David Jackson (1987), pp. 32-43. The theoretical texts are reunited in Augusto De Campos, Décio Pignatari, and Haroldo De Campos, Teoria da poesia concreta, 2d ed. (1975). Summaries of concretist movements can be found in the concretism issue of Revista de cultura: Vozes, no. 1 (1977), and in Iumna Maria Simon and Vinicius Dantas, Poesia concreta (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Bois, Yve Alain. Geometric Abstraction: Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps De Cisneros Collection. Abstracción Geométrica Arte Latinoamericano En La Colección Patricia Phelps De Cisneros. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Art Museums, 2001.

Cintrão, Rejane, and Ana Paula Nascimento. Grupo Ruptura: Arte concreta paulista. São Paulo, SP: Cosac & Naify, 2002.

Bandeira, João. Arte concreta paulista: Documentos. São Paulo: Cosac & Naify, 2002.

                                       K. David Jackson

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