Some May Work as Symbols: Art Made in Brazil, 1950s–70s

7 Mar-5 May 2024
PV 6 Mar 2024, 6.30-8.30pm

Raven Row
London E1 7LS


A rich diversity of artistic approaches existed in Brazil in the decades around the mid-twentieth century, after the first modernist wave had settled. This exhibition finds conversations between various forms of abstraction, symbolism and figuration that were circulating and interacting in the visual culture of that time. The abstract geometries produced by the concretists and neo-concretists in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro – Judith Lauand, Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape amongst them – are now internationally celebrated. The Afro-Brazilian symbology developed in the same period by artists such as Mestre Didi, Abdias Nascimento and Rubem Valentim, often referring to Candomblé and other spiritual practices, was no less pioneering. Also brought into dialogue are depictions of street scenes, domestic life and agricultural labour – perennially popular genres in Brazilian art, which are elaborated in the compositions of Silvia de Leon Chalreo, the theatrical stagings of Heitor dos Prazeres, and the expressive textiles of Madalena Santos Reinbolt.

Made in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro (MAM Rio), Some May Work as Symbols reflects on some of the absences or exclusions in Brazilian art historiography. Presenting work of dazzling quality by thirty artists, much of which has never been seen in the UK before, this exhibition draws principally on four museum collections – MAM Rio; Museu Afro Brasil Emanoel Araujo, in São Paulo; the Museum of Contemporary Art, University of São Paulo; and the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia – as well as private collections. Some May Work as Symbols is curated by Pablo Lafuente, artistic director of MAM Rio, and Thiago de Paula Souza, independent curator and researcher.

Artists in the exhibition: Maria Auxiliadora (1935–74); Lula Cardoso Ayres (1910–87); Genaro de Carvalho (1926–71); Aluísio Carvão (1920–2001); Amilcar de Castro (1920–2002); Willys de Castro (1926–88); Silvia de Leon Chalreo (1905–91); Lygia Clark (1920–88); João José Costa (1931–2014); Mário Cravo Junior (1923–2018); Milton Dacosta (1915–88); Mestre Didi (1917–2013); Djanira (1914–79); Hermelindo Fiaminghi (1920–2004); Judith Lauand (1922–2022); Almir Mavignier (1925–2018); Abdias Nascimento (1914–2011); César Oiticica (1939–); Hélio Oiticica (1937–80); Lygia Pape (1927–2004); Heitor dos Prazeres (1898–1966); Madalena dos Santos Reinbolt (1919–77); Luiz Sacilotto (1924–2003); Ione Saldanha (1921–2001); Dionísio del Santo (1925–99); Agnaldo dos Santos (1926–62); Ivan Serpa (1923–73); Elisa Martins da Silveira (1912–2001); Rubem Valentim (1922–91); Alfredo Volpi (1896–1988).

Selected works


Some May Work as Symbols: Art Made in Brazil, 1950s–70s press release