Almir da Silva Mavignier (b. 1925)
Almir da Silva Mavignier (b. 1925)

Formas plásticas

Almir da Silva Mavignier (b. 1925)
Formas plásticas
signed and dated ‘almir mavignier, 1956’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
19 ¾ x 39 ¼ in. (50 x 100 cm.)
Painted in 1956.
Private collection, Tokyo (acquired in 1972).
São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, IV Bienal de São Paulo, 22 September-30 December 1957, no. 37.
Hannover, Germany, Kestnergesellschaft (Kestner Society), Almir Mavignier, 4 October-24 November 1968, n. 65.

Lot Essay

Mavignier left Rio de Janeiro in 1951 for Paris—“that’s where the Mona Lisa is,” he noted of his chosen destination—and he soon emerged as a key figure in the transatlantic history of Concrete art, celebrated as an artist-collaborator and longtime teacher at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg. [1] Formative encounters with the work of Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard anticipated his contributions, alongside Ivan Serpa and Abraham Palatnik, to the beginnings of Brazil’s Concrete art movement. Rejecting representation and naturalism, the movement—later associated with the Grupo Frente—embraced the Constructivist principles of color and design introduced to Brazil at the first São Paulo Bienal (1951), notably by Max Bill’s Moebius-strip sculpture, Tripartite Unity. Geometric abstraction was already ascendant in Paris by the time of Mavignier’s arrival, and he established contact with François Morellet, Ellsworth Kelly, and Georges Vantongerloo, among others; he exhibited his first Concrete paintings at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in 1953.

From 1953 to 1958, Mavignier studied in the Visual Communication Program at the newly established Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm under former Bauhaus instructors, among them Josef Albers, Johannes Itten, and Walter Peterhans, as well as with Max Bense and Max Bill. Mavignier “would always say that his diploma was signed by two Maxes,” recalled his friend Matko Meštrović, the Croatian art critic. [2] A highly generative period, these years saw increasing international recognition and connections to artist groups including ZERO, founded by Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker (Düsseldorf, 1957-66), and the collective Gruppo N (Padua, 1959-67). In the late 1950s, Mavignier began his now iconic work in graphic design, creating posters for a host of artists—Paul Klee, Palatnik, El Lissitzky, Jesús Rafael Soto—and institutions from the Galerie Denise René to the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. He organized the first Nove Tendencije (New Tendencies) exhibition in Zagreb, in 1961, advancing light-and-space aesthetics into “non-aligned” Yugoslavia.

Mavignier exhibited his first “dot” paintings in 1957 at the Municipal Museum in Ulm, with a keynote introduction by Max Bill, and two years later at Kurt Fried’s progressive gallery, Studio F. Begun in 1954, these paintings took as a point of departure Klee’s dictum: “If a line meets another line, they meet in a point, and this point is an energy point, which contains the whole power of the two lines meeting there.” [3] To create these works, Mavignier used a tool (sometimes the head of a nail) to apply raised dots of paint in grid-based, geometric patterns, producing a wave-like chromatic vibration. In Formas plásticas, horizontal bands of yellow and green dots seem to oscillate across the dark canvas surface, perceptually receding in and out of focus in response to variations in the density and size of the “dots.” This mutable, tactile structure allowed Mavignier to discover “unknown geometries” of a kind similarly explored by Brazil’s Neo-Concretists in the late 1950s. Formas plásticas is one of two paintings that he showed at the IV São Paulo Bienal, as part of a Brazilian contingent that included Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, in December 1957.

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

1 Almir Mavignier, quoted in Serge Lemoine, “Almir Mavignier: nove tendencije,” in The Artist as Curator: Collaborative Initiatives in the International Zero Movement, 1957-1967 (Gent: AsaMER, 2015), 293.
2 Matko Meštrović, quoted in Armin Medosch, New Tendencies: Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961-1978) (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2016), 36.
3 See Tobias Hoffmann and Frank Schmidt, “Interview mit Almir Mavignier,” quoted in Medosch, New Tendencies, 83.

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