THE WHITE WEBSITE
White devours all colors. "White is tamed light: the dynamic of our
contemplation," defined the poet Murilo Mendes.1 "If art has known
harmony, rhythm, beauty, it has known zero," is in Malevitch's "Suprematist
mirror" (1923).2 Art, like philosophy and science, will develop its
own method. Jorge Romero Brest analyses the first Bienal de São
Paulo: "the term proportion, the term mathematics, the term precision,
[. . .] lead to error, for it is not about artistic forms on which mathematical
principles are applied, but about obtaining, through fantasy and intuition,
forms that in the aesthetic plan possess similar characteristics."3
The dialogue produced for Brazilian art by the Bienal de São
Paulo is designated as the "Bienal effect." Here it is relevant
to quote Arp, Vordemberge-Gildewart, Albers, Bill and Lohse. In the anteroom
of the Monochromes exhibition are included artists who were a fundamental
reference to the constructive project in Latin America: Malevitch, Mondrian,
van Doesburg, Vantongerloo. Despite the correlations with the Baroque, the
Latin American constructive vanguards did not discard a certain historicism
and essentialism, as in De Stijl.4 They resorted to the utopian grounds
of the Bauhaus, of the Russian vanguards, to neoplasticism and Torres-García,
which shows that our North is the South to recompose the sense of orientation.
The monochrome prompts a discussion on the constitutive process of the autonomy
of cultures from peripheral regions in the face of the eurocentric process.
Whilst antropofagia projected a process of cultural emancipation, color
organized an identity model in Brazil.
Latin America abandons the understanding of art as the history of styles
or images in order to extract from it problems to be developed. The notion
of "influence" is no longer relevant. There no longer exist models
to follow in that visual epistheme. The knowledge of art history is imperative
for choosing the points of insertion and rupture in the common ground of
western culture. Articulating this consciousness, the theorist of neoconcretism
Ferreira Gullar discusses the death of painting in "Teoria do não-objeto"
[Theory of the non-object]: "it is with Mondrian and Malevitch that
the elimination of the object continues. [. . .] After all, it is painting
that lies there inarticulate in search of a new structure, of a new way
of being, of a new signification."6 Repeatedly Oiticica and Clark refer
to neoplasticism and suprematism. It is possible to correlate Oiticica's
Núcleos, an architecture of color planes with van Doesburg's
architectural drawings with painted walls like monochromatic planes, moving
beyond his ideas of "parallelism between pictorial form and natural
Bruno Duborgel discusses the unfigurable in Malevitch and suprematist etymology.
Inexistent in Russian, it was forged from the Latin and from the Polish
designating an ontological function: "to disclose," "to reveal,"
"to manifest," "to present," the Absolute as objectless,
the Void, the abyssal being, the universal excitement, the "essence
of diversities," the nonfigurative being, the objectless world.7 "I
have metamorphosed myself in zero forms," said Malevitch.8 In the economy
of modernity,. Concerning his suprematist work, Malevitch adds: "The free
white abyss, infinity are before us."9 Yet Arp's painted bas-relief
Expressive forms (1932) shows the modern hybrid between painting and sculpture.10
Robert Rauschenberg explains the genesis of structural simplicity of his
White paintings (1951): whilst Albers pointed out the equivalence of colors,
he hesitated in their arbitrary choice. One of the reasons for his White
paintings was not to employ color at his personal service.11
The monochrome here is an extraordinary paradigm. The singularity emerges
as extreme precisely where there would seem to have been the greatest similitude.
Commenting on the monochromatic inventions of Yves Klein, Rauschenberg and
Ellsworth Kelly, Benjamin Buchloch observed how "the coincidence as
well as the simultaneity and repetitions of other avant-garde paradigms,
substantiates the hypothesis that the discursive formation of modernism
generated its own historical and evolutionary dynamic. If we assume that
the visual paradigms operate analogously to linguistic paradigms, then the
'langue' of modernism would constitute the neo-avant-garde 'speakers' and
continuously replicate and modify their 'paroles.'"12 White monochromes
created in little over a decade by artists from all over the world point
to the dispersion of the idea of center in art history. This occurs where
there is an artist who questions the gaze, whether in Brazil, Venezuela,
Italy, France, the United States or Japan.13 Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni
mark Europe in the '50s. In manifesting the idea of the monochrome,14 Klein
became the owner of the IKB (International Klein Blue) blue and of color
itself. According to Restany, blue for Klein is "a tangible figuration
of the infinite space,"15 identifying the pictorial and existential
phenomenons. His methodological project aimed at the brilliancy of the materials
and the intensity of "color in freedom." Ideas of color impregnation
and incorporation refer us to Manzoni. His first achromes date to 1957.
In order to operate the corporeality of the monochromes, Manzoni used hydrophilic
materials; and also hairy and stony ones to explore the surface, declaring
that "My aim is to create an entirely white surface (completely colorless,
neutral) that no longer refers in any way to a phenomenon or pictorial element
unfamiliar to the nature of the surface."16
Ferreira Gullar's article "Arte neoconcreta, uma contribuição
brasileira" [Neoconcrete art, a Brazilian contribution],17 demarcates
the genesis of this Brazilian movement and its references to Malevitch and
to Mondrian's foreboding of the end of the painting.18 After the Gestalttheorie,
Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology splits Brazilian concretism, then caught in
dogmatic objectivity, guided by the theories of Norbert Wiener, Charles
Pierce, Max Bill and Swiss concrete art. Neoconcretism reestablished the
indices of subjectivity, whether belonging to the artist or the spectator,
for the realization of the plastic fact. In his trajectory, Hércules
Barsotti explores the proportions between light and darkness. A slight movement
gives way to the plastic fact when coming across brightness or light. His
dedicated neoconcrete operation lies in accepting any minor action of the
gaze. Branco branco [White white] announces the exact point of constitution
of the nature of space: the borderline between white planes. Present there
is something of Morandi and of the place between things. As luminosity emerges
tension settles in and difference irrupts. This sign is the course that
constitutes the birth of language. Lygia Clark's work is about the adventure
of the plane. Towards the end of the '50s, the artist realized that space
emerges from the articulation of independent planes,19 such as in Planos
em superfície modulada n.1 [Planes in modulated surface #1] (1957).
In the junction line of these wooden planes there remain breaches which
the artist incorporates into the plastic discourse like an "organic
line." They are veins through which run shadows and air. Air invades
the white monochrome. Instead, Hélio Oiticica lives the adventure
of color.20 In the neoconcrete period, Oiticica wrote, "Color, time
and structure," an analysis of the sense of color, white being the
"most static that favors silent, dense and metaphysic duration. The
encounter of two different whites occurs deafly, one being more pure whilst
the other is naturally more opaque."21 In order to counterbalance the
difference, Oiticica would change the brushstroke's direction.22 He searches
for the color's place, the "organic relation of shape-color,"
displaces the plane to become concrete space, until it turns into penetrable
architecture. Color's corporeality is the path that directs the experience
of art to the complete sensorial potentiality of the individuals.
Emigrating from Japan in 1958, Yayoi Kusama created the Infinity nets through
pattern repetition, as in No. D (1959). Donald Judd compared such paintings
to "large fragile, but vigorously carved grill or to a massive, solid
lace."23 The network gives the artist a sense of control in the face
of her mental illness.24 In these "quasi-monochromes," as Lynn
Zelevansky designates them, white finalizes the history of the picture,
superimposed on all possible and visible color nuances. White does not refute
rhetoric, excess, the misleading traces of the gestural as it comes to live
an unexpected crisis of reason and measure.25 The Brazilian artist born
in Japan, Tomie Ohtake, covers surfaces with white (1961) like a film of
light. Through it filter other pictorial layers of the painting revealing
the history of color and manifesting the plurality of colors present in
white. "According to Zen, the color white knows who lies distant from
it," recalls Murilo Mendes. Manabu Mabe, another Japanese-Brazilian,
departs from the excess in a monochrome (1962). Earlier on, Mário
Pedrosa had expressed his "gluttonous love of substance."26 The
transient calligraphic gesture registers the thickness of the pictorial
covering like an incised body. In the field of light Mabe writes for shadows.
The neoconcrete space leads Ferreira Gullar to argue in "Teoria do
não-objeto" that Fontana's canvases are "a retarded
attempt at destroying the fictitious quality of the pictorial space by introducing
in it a real cut."27 In the "Manifiesto Blanco" [White manifesto]
(1946), Fontana defends color as a space-element for an art devoid of artifice
that would involve sound, time and matter. To Murilo Mendes, Fontana's knife
represents the "art of dividing the space in harmony with its internal
cohesion."28 Space springs from perforating and cutting acts, violent
on the color-support and arbitrary before its own logic. The blade mutilates
the body29 and creates shadows on the white. Clark's Plano em superfície
modulada [Plane in modulated surface] announces her slips in air and shadows.
In Vibración en blanco [Vibration in white] (1960), Soto displays
the logic of the support's thread and texture, in contrast to Fontana's
gesturality. The artist directs the openings towards dissolution, strictly
following the logic of the support's structure. Thus the support maintains
its basic cohesion, despite being still fragile, in order to simultaneously
disperse and retain the density of the white as well as light. In a painting
(Untitled, 1964), Mira Schendel opens rectangles on the white ground. The
artist manages to introduce, as a calculating device, the void where the
degree zero of the gaze was established. The rectangular planes cut space
like the negative planes of painting.
"White on white: Absolute white in activity," sang Murilo Mendes.
Going back to oil painting, Alejandro Otero adopts the monochromatic predominance
that imposed itself on the formation of color. He develops a deaf game of
concealment and veiling. White becomes laconism in a plane of regression
towards the utopia of the White canvas painting (1961).30 White is the experience
of chords. "Color has to be structured as sound in music," expressed
Oiticica.31 Robert Ryman's absolute choice for white included the offering
of "an experience of delight, and well-being, and rightness. It is
like listening to music,"32 to clarify the density of white. Winsor
(1965), denotes the procedure of painting series and giving titles that
are not associated to objects, people and places.33 It refers to the brand
of paints Winsor & Newton. Ryman explores the construction of painting
loading the paintbrush with paint and creating horizontal strips from left
to right until the paint dries up. He repeats this procedure making a new
strip below. Robert Storr compares Ryman to "Inuit who can read with
precision a comparably narrow spectrum of snow and ice, Ryman has catalogued
white's actual variety, thus ironically demonstrating its latent no-neutrality
when seen in relation to itself."34 For Ryman, white "makes other
aspects of painting visible that would not be so clear with the use of other
The white monochromes reveal the world marked by solitary differences. The
monochrome is imbued with symbolic significance, introducing issues such
as difference, desire, power, racism or art. This is seen in Felix Gonzalez-Torres
and in André Serrano's blood photography. It is the fusion of
symbols in Anish Kapoor's sculpture or prompts the dissolution of the idea
of authorship in Gerhard Richter's painting. It is concept and its reification.
Yves Klein restored the monochrome and other colors in the discussion of
Political violence compares to cannibalism. Montaigne discusses in his Essays
(I, XXXI) that "us [Europeans] exceed them [the cannibal Tupinambás
Indians] in all forms of barbarity." Religious wars, ethnic conflicts,
civil fights, and fascism demonstrate how society itself devours its children.
Glenn Ligon's painting interrogates. The work done in conjunction with Byron
Kim, WHITE and white (version # 1) (1993), consists in a series of monochromes
which explore the color-ethnicity relationship ironically, like in a commercial
showcase of paints. "The work of the artists of color is often reduced
to being simply about race and nothing else, as if our gender, sexual, class,
and other identities didn't complicate any discussion of race as a subject
matter, or as if race was our 'natural' subject matter."36 In a subtle
way the artist paints WHITE lettered texts over a WHITE ground to discuss
how the use of color names to designate ethnicities can result in racism
when the discourse on ethnic identity denies the discourse of subjectivity.
In support of Mandela, Nigel Rolfe created Hand on face (1988). Differences
of projection-whether on a large screen in Wembley or on a small monitor-discuss
social space. The anti-Malevitch video charges the image with meaning. In
real time, the artist's face suffers repeated attacks by a WHITE-painted
hand. The subtext refers to the political violence of censorship, torture
and individual identity closely linked to the physical condition. The individual's
encounter with the plasticity of power is made evident. In the "Roteiros.
. ." segment, Abdoulaye Konaté exhibits the installation
Genocide, in which cutouts of a red fabric-monochromes-repair the canvas.
These are wound and suture on a body that wanes in hunger and mutilates
in war under the gaze mediated by the means of communication. Konaté
belongs to a generation of artists who incorporate ancestral values to today's
denseness. Africa acknowledges itself as critical subject of its political
process. From Palestinian origin, Mona Hatoum works within the tradition
of visual symbolization in Islamic culture and its representation interdict.
Ornaments, arabesques, calligraphy, colors articulate meaning without representing.
The abstract surface of Prayer mat (1995) is the result of thousands of
safety-pins. A compass, a "kitsch" inscription, allows one to
know the direction of Meca. The abstract surface of Prayer mat contrasts
with Entrails carpet, a repulsive territory, and Marble carpet, whose thousands
of glass balls destabilize the space. The materials' sensuality exacerbates
certain territorial frailties.
In his anthropoemetrics, Yves Klein used people for printing pigments. "Appropriative
urgency," says Pierre Restany,37 applying a term linked to anthropophagy
to this kind of shroud. Klein printed "battles" restrained by
bodies in turbulent movements-"a battle with the aura of unrestrained
exuberance, orgasmic ecstasy, orgiastic chaos, and savage violence."38
In Grande antropophagie bleue-Hommage a Tennessee Williams [Great blue anthropophagy-Homage
to Tennessee Williams] (1960), Klein ratifies cannibalism as a symbolic
practice, a metaphor of violence and a phantasmagoric dimension in desire.
Tennessee Williams had approached the theme in the book Suddenly last summer,
where the character Sebastian, in search of sensory realization, ends up
consumed by a gang-a brutal index of social decadence. Like Montaigne, Klein
saw Europe, for its wars, as "pure 'flesh' [. . .]. We will rapidly
become anthropophagites."39 Further still, he saw the Eucharist as
an anthropophagic rite. Preceding the edenic "blue era," cannibalism
would be the phase of man's redemption. Klein commented that "We are
coming into an anthropophagous era [. . .]. It will be the peaceful realization
on a universal scale of the famous words: He who eats of my flesh and drinks
of my blood will live in me and I in him."40 Klein's religious ancestral
cannibalism would be destiny of a last judgment.
In Project for an artistic attitude (1970), Antonio Dias inverts the writing
of the word REALITY. The relationship between visual sign and verbal sign
places the word in suspension on the WHITE ground. The nonverbal space functions
as an immense monochrome. Malevitch and his non-objectivity or other models
of the reduction of painting and its recording in society are alluded to.
Constituting the series Model of art, this work is articulated in Model
of society in which The invented country/Dias-de-Deus-Dará is
In the field of contemporary thought, "art is the critical model of
art," that questions society as one of its contents and, implicitly,
as lack. The artist's attitude model is to create knowledge in the friction
field of art/society. Departing from the fact that the monochrome is a reduction
to the essential, Cildo Meireles shifts towards the excess of color in Desvio
para o vermelho [Detour into red] (1967-1984).41 Impregnação
[Impregnation], the installation's first setting, apparently draws Cildo
closer to Yves Klein's economy. However, Cildo approaches the capital's
maneuvers, the encounter between exchange value and utility value, symbolic
value and real value. As an inflationary economic operation, color devours
and neutralizes ideas of value. The monochrome now takes an opposite course:
from the notion of zero to the recording of history.
Translated from the Portuguese by Veronica Cordeiro1. Murilo Mendes, "Texto
branco," Transístor, Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Fronteira,
1980, pp.371-72. The quotations of the author refer to this text.
2. Kasimir Malevitch, Le miroir suprématiste, Lausanne: L'Âge
de l'Homme, 1997, II, pp. 97-98.
3. Jorge Romero Brest, "Primera Bienal de San Pablo," Buenos Aires,
Ver y estimar, n.23 (May 1951), p.14.
4. See Yve-Alain Bois, Painting as model, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990, p.
5. See "A cor no modernismo brasileiro, a navegação
com muitas bússolas" by the author in this catalogue.
6. Rio de Janeiro, "Suplemento dominical," Jornal do Brasil, 1960,
7. Bruno Duborgel, Malevitch, la question de l'icône, Saint-Étienne:
Cierec, 1997, p. 70. Quotes A. Nakov and also analyses the relationship
of Malevitch's work with the transfigurative art of the icons.
8. Malevitch, "Du cubisme et du futurisme au suprématisme.
Le nouveau réalisme picturial," (1916), Malévitch
écrits, Paris: Champ Libre, 1975, p.185.
9. Malevitch, "Le suprématisme," op. cit. note 2 above,
II, p. 84.
10. Thierry de Duve, Kant after Duchamp, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996, p.229.
11. Robert Rauschenberg/Calvin Tomkins, The bride and the bachelor, New
York: Viking Press, 1974, pp.199-200.
12. Benjamin Buchloch, "The primary colors for the second time: a paradigm
repetition of the neo-avant-garde," October, MIT, n.37 (Summer 1986),
13. Specific texts in this book examine specificities. We work with paradigms
here. Other artists could be included in the debate. Rodchenko developed
his monochromes in the '20s. Among the white monochromes we should mention
here Strzeminski's, and more recently, those by Ellsworth Kelly, Burri,
Megert, Goepfert, Castellani, Colombo, de Vries, Girke, Bartels, Piene,
Uecker, Morellet, among others, in addition to Opalka when the zero degree
is reached. We do not include the painted reliefs by Schoonhoven, von Graevenitz,
Sérgio Camargo, Simetti, among others.
14. See Benjamin Buchloch, op.cit. note 12 above. Thierry de Duve, "Yves
Klein, or the dead dealer," October, n.49 (1998) and Kant after Duchamp,
Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996.
15. Pierre Restany, "Yves Klein le monochrome," La couleur seule,
Lyon, 1988, pp. 73-81.
16. In Azimuth 2, 1960, cited in Ursula Perucchi-Petri, La couleur seule,
17. Ferreira Gullar, Revista crítica de arte, Rio de Janeiro,
n.1 (1962). Rodchenko was not mentioned there.
18. See, for example, Hélio Oiticica's text "16 de fevereiro
de 1961," Aspiro ao grande labirinto, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 1986,
19. Ty are planes cut out in wood, arranged so as to form rectangles.
20. Dealt with in one of the exhibitions of this Bienal and in Viviane Matesco's
essay in this book, 386-397
21. Hélio Oiticica, "Suplemento Dominical," Jornal do Brasil (26.11.1960), Rio de Janeiro.
22. "Dezembro de 1959," op.cit., note 18 above, p.16. 23. Cited in Lynn Zelevansky, "Driving image: Yayoi Kusama in New York," Yayoi Kusama 1958-1968, Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum, 1998, p.12. 24. Ibid., p.14. 25. Here Murilo Mendes' Texto Branco is parodied, note 1 above. 26. Mário Pedrosa, "Manabu Mabe," Jornal do Brasil (28.10. 1959), Rio de Janeiro. 27. Ferreira Gullar, Rio de Janeiro, "Suplemento dominical," Jornal do Brasil (1960), p.4.
28. "Fontana," op.cit., note 1 above, p.376. 29. See Rosa Olivares' essay in this book, pp.508-517 30. These interpretations by Luis Pérez Oramas were extracted from a letter to the author on August 25, 1998. 31. See op.cit., note 18 above, p.25. 32. Robert Storr, Robert Ryman, London: Tate Gallery and New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1993. 33. Interview by Robert Ryman to Lynn Zelevansky on July 7, 1992, Robert Storr, Robert Ryman, London: Tate Gallery and New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1993, p.118. 34. Op.cit., previous note, p.16. 35. Cited in Storr, op.cit., note 33 above. 36. "An interview with Byron Kim," Glenn Ligon un/becoming, Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1997, p.54. 37. Pierre Restany, Yves Klein, le monochrome, Paris: Hachette, 1974, p.98. 38. Sidra Stich, Yves Klein, Stuttgart: Cantz, 1994, p.180. 39. Note in his journal, 1957, cited in Stich, previous note, p.180. 40. Yves Klein, Zéro, 1973, p.88. 41. Desvio para o vermelho is displayed in this XXIV Bienal, with a study by Lisette Lagnado, pp.398-405. 42. ubermorgen, HANS BERNHARD, etoy, voteauction, ipnic, anuscan inc., naziline 43. etoy etoy.corporation digital hijack 44. HANS BERNHARD hans_extrem lizvlx