Brazilian Art under Dictatorship

Antonio Manuel, Artur Barrio, and Cildo Meireles

Brazilian Art under Dictatorship

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 72 illustrations, including 16 page color insert Published: May 2012

Art and Visual Culture, Cultural Studies, Latin American Studies > Brazil

Brazilian Art under Dictatorship is a sophisticated analysis of the intersection of politics and the visual arts during the most repressive years of Brazil's military regime, from 1968 until 1975. Raised in Rio de Janeiro during the dictatorship, the curator and art historian Claudia Calirman describes how Brazilian visual artists addressed the political situation and opened up the local art scene to new international trends. Focusing on innovative art forms infused with a political undertone, Calirman emphasizes the desire among Brazilian artists to reconcile new modes of art making with a concern for local politics. Ephemeral works, such as performance art, media-based art, and conceptualism, were well suited to the evasion of censorship and persecution. Calirman examines the work and careers of three major artists of the period, Antonio Manuel, Artur Barrio, and Cildo Meireles. She explores the ways that they negotiated the competing demands of Brazilian politics and the international art scene, the efficacy of their political critiques, and their impact on Brazilian art and culture. Calirman suggests that the art of the late 1960s and early 1970s represented not just the artists' concerns with politics, but also their anxieties about overstepping the boundaries of artistic expression.


“The merit of Calirman’s book lies in the manner it documents a well-known story, albeit one that is still revisited with caution, especially within Brazil.“ — Mirtes Marins de Oliveira, Afterall

“Calirman's examination of three artists - Antonio Manuel, Artur Barrio and Cildo Meireles - helps to challenge the myth that the Brazilian dictatorship fostered only ‘cultural emptiness.’ Via letters and manifestos, exhibition reviews and descriptions of artworks, and interviews with artists and critics, she reveals the ephemeral, performative and clandestine artwork produced during the period. . . . Calirman breaks down myths about the absence of opposition to the Brazilian military regime and urges us to continue to examine the many forms of resistance in Cold War-era Latin America.” — Sarah Sarzynski, Times Higher Education

“In Brazilian Art under Dictatorship, Claudia Calirman avoids the pitfall of geographic homogenization by profiling three quite distinctive artists who emerged in Rio de Janeiro toward the end of the 1960s. . . . Calirman's book is extremely well researched . . . [A]n interesting account of this little-known history, one that remains obscure even within Brazil." — Michael Asbury, Art in America

“The book offers a broad overview of different works from the perspective of these three artists, all in a specific period of time in Brazil’s history. . . .Calirman takes us carefully through the art historical and cultural context of the artists’ engagements. Many of them continue to resonate today. . . .” — An Xiao, Hyperallergic

“This book makes a valuable contribution to scholarship about cultural production in Brazil under the military dictatorship, exploring as it does visual arts in the most repressive period of authoritarian rule from 1968-1975…. [The author] focuses on the innovative ideas of Antonio Manuel, Artur Barrio, and Cildo Meireles whose work juggled political undercurrents and the artistic effort to respond to international artistic trends.” — Latin American Review of Books

Brazilian Art under Dictatorship is a well-researched, multifaceted explanation of the complexities and contradictions of self-expression under a climate of repression and censorship. Easily the most thorough and readable book on this time period in Brazilian art history in any language, the reader often feels as if they are being given a personal behind-the-scenes tour of a singular moment in modern art history. Anyone from the public to advanced scholars seeking a meticulously researched and informative history of the Brazilian art scene under the dictatorship should begin with Calirman’s landmark study.”  — Matthew Francis Rarey, Luso-Brazilian Review

“Calirman . . . broadens our scope considerably by examining the work of three other visual artists who challenged right-wing military rule in ways that were both original and playful. . . . Calirman . . . takes a measured view, being careful not to overstate claims to the importance of what these three artists achieved. . . .  At the very least, the works of Antonio Manuel, Artur Barrio, Cildo Meireles and others discussed here demonstrate that ‘there was in fact robust artistic production during the dictatorship.’ Shouldn’t that be enough?” — Larry Rohter, ReVista

Brazilian Art Under Dictatorship’s chronological and thematic emphasis on the most repressive years of Brazil’s military regime makes it an important contribution within a field dominated by biographical monographs that span the arc of an artist’s career.” — Jennifer Josten, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Truly a triumph of social art history, Brazilian Art Under Dictatorship is painstakingly well researched. . . . Calirman exposes the depth and richness of Brazilian art during the dictatorship, a critical moment politically, culturally and artistically, within the history of Latin America."   — Megan Lorraine Debin, Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies

“Calirman's arguments grant visibility to specific traits of the Brazilian scene... Her investigation provides materials for developing comparative studies of different strategies of symbolic resistance to dictatorships and post-dictatorships in Latin America. At the same time, it interrupts the affirmative modernist discourse that dominates several studies on Brazilian art.” — Andrea Giunta, The Americas

“Copiously researched, imminently readable and introducing a wealth of invaluable material not readily available in English, Brazilian Art under Dictatorship opens fertile terrain that should inspire further scholarship on this vital period of creativity amidst adversity.” — Edith Wolfe, EIAL

"Brazilian Art under Dictatorship is a welcome contribution to a growing body of scholarly work about cultural production in Brazil under authoritarian rule. Through meticulous archival research, Claudia Calirman illuminates the work of three great experimental artists of the 1970s who pursued distinct artistic strategies. She succeeds in showing how, in their work, they responded to the specific context of censorship and violence in Brazil, while remaining engaged in an international dialogue about the changing politics of art in contemporary societies." — Christopher Dunn, author of Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture

"This is a landmark achievement. Claudia Calirman deftly explicates the complexities and subtleties of the varied forms of visual expression created in reaction to the atrocities of dictatorship in later-twentieth-century Brazil. With its limpid writing and intelligent citing of parallels in other forms of avant garde art in Europe and North America, her text affords the reader an 'insider's' look into one of the most vibrant and original art scenes of the 1960s and 1970s. This book should appeal to a wide public and will stand as a standard reference for many years." — Edward J. Sullivan, New York University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Claudia Calirman is Assistant Professor of Art History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Preface and Acknowledgments xiii

Abbreviations and a Note on Translation xvii

Introduction 1

1. "Non à la Biennale de São Paulo" 10

2. Antonio Manuel: "Experimental Exercise of Freedom" 37

3. Artur Barrio: A New Visual Aesthetics 79

4. Cildo Meireles: Clandestine Art 114

Conclusion. Opening the Wounds: Longing for Closure 147

Appendix 1. Dossier . "Non à la Biennale de São Paulo" 155

Appendix 2. Chronology of Exhibitions 159

Notes 163

Bibliography 185

Index 199
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Rights and licensing

Winner, Twelfth Annual Arvey Book Award for best book of the year from the Association of Latin American Art (ALAA)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5153-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5139-9
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