This autumn, De La Warr Pavilion will present Hélio Oiticica: Waiting for the internal sun, the first major presentation of the artist’s work in a UK public institution for over 15 years.
Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980) is widely regarded as one of Brazil’s most prominent artists of the twentieth century and a touchstone for much contemporary art made since the 1960s. Through freewheeling, participatory artworks – cinematic installations, immersive environments, interactive objects and abstract paintings – Oiticica challenges us to engage with our surroundings in new and unexpected ways, stimulating our senses, emotions and physical bodies. This landmark exhibition, presented across DLWP’s gallery spaces, will centre on the artist’s life and work throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, during which he spent brief stints in London and Sussex, and then an extended period in New York City before returning to Rio de Janeiro in 1978.
Developed in close collaboration with The Estate of Hélio Oiticica, the exhibition has been organised to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Oiticica and fellow artist Neville D’Almeida’s ground-breaking Cosmococa artworks first created in New York in the 1970s. DLWP will join venues including Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Lisson Gallery, New York, USA; Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz, USA; The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, USA, and Hunter College Art Galleries, New York, USA, in an international series of exhibitions celebrating the rich legacy of these site-specific artworks.
Radical and subversive, the Cosmococa environments form part of Oiticica’s wider concerns during this period, which come together under the rubric of ‘creleisure’, a term coined by the artist in 1969 as part of his desire to fuse art and life and reclaim leisure time from its exploitation under capitalism. DLWP’s First Floor gallery will be transformed into a recreation of Cosmococa/CC5 Hendrix War (1973). In what the artist termed a ‘quasi-cinema’ environment, this 360-degree installation comprises projection, sound, and suspended Brazilian hammocks for visitors to relax in. The space is soundtracked by iconic artist Jimi Hendrix’s album War Heroes, while slideshow images of the album cover, manipulated by overlaid line drawings made from cocaine powder, are projected onto the gallery walls. Not only reflecting the hedonistic avant-garde of New York during this era, the work also comments on transgression, corruption, and violence in 1970s America. The artists’ transformation of cocaine – a substance extracted from Latin America, where Oiticica was from – into a drawing pigment, comments on US imperialism within the region.
In the Ground floor gallery will be a recreation of Oiticica’s installation Projeto Filtro – For Vergara (1972) for the first time in the UK. An important example of the artists Penetrable artworks – in which the viewer is invited to enter and interact with the installation – Projeto Filtro takes visitors on a labyrinthine journey, encountering translucent, coloured walls, sound recordings, live news streams, and an orange juice dispenser. Originally conceived for the Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) in Rio de Janeiro, the artist described the work as a ‘game-joke-labyrinth-noise-sound-recorder transistor buzzer blender tv’ that parodies ‘the myth of work and of kitsch … that contaminates little Brazilian minds’. It can be read as the third ‘portrait’ of his native Brazil, alongside Tropicália (1966-67) and Subterranean Tropicália (1971), and is charged with the political context of Brazil’s military dictatorship from which Oiticica fled. Alongside this installation will be a series of replicas of the artist’s Parangolés: colourful capes and banners made from layers of fabric, plastic, mats and ropes, often with poetic or political messages inscribed in them. Each of these pieces are intended to be activated by moving bodies, and visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to participate in the experience of wearing these dynamic artworks.
The immersive installations presented within the DLWP exhibition are accompanied by an archival section in the Ground floor gallery, bringing together photography, film and writings by the artist. This timeline will trace Oiticica’s time spent in London as he prepared his first international exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery with curator Guy Brett, his residency at Sussex University in Brighton, and the years spent living in Manhattan throughout the 70s. The exhibition will also consider the different ways that queerness manifests throughout his artistic production and the liberationist feeling that ran through New York’s underground cultural scene at the time. This is evident in the 1973 slide projection work, Neyrótika, and a group of rarely seen Super 8mm films captured on the streets of New York and in the apartments frequented by Oiticica and fellow artists.
In our current climate, we are faced with a series of impending crises: those of our bodies, our ecologies and the systems that govern them. Within this context, the relevance of Oiticica’s ideas becomes clear, as he shifts our attention to the ways that we might negotiate an increasingly inhospitable world. Taking its title from his essay ‘The Possibilities of Creleisure’ (1970) in which Oiticica writes of lying ‘as if waiting for the internal sun, the non-representative leisure’, the exhibition highlights the enduring legacy of this trailblazing and visionary artist and the unique worlds that he created.
 ‘Instructions for Filter’, 14 July 1972. Archivo Hélio Oiticica / Projeto Hélio Oiticica 0263.72. Translated by Maria Castro.
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Within the limits of this Grade One listed building, the De La Warr Pavilion strives to be fully accessible with a range of facilities to support your visit.
Assistance Dogs are permitted into the building.
Please contact the Box Office on 01424 229 111 to arrange a visit.
Facilities for disabled visitors
- Ramped access at the front of the building
- A low counter at the Box Office and Information Desk
- Disabled toilets on two floors
- A lift to all floors
- Accessible galleries on both floors
- An accessible Café
- Spaces for wheelchairs in the auditorium for seated events
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- Ramped access into the Studio
- Two travel wheelchairs are available for use at the De La Warr Pavilion. To reserve, please call our box office and information desk on (01424) 229111 or ask a member of staff on arrival. The chairs are provided on a first come, first served basis and are intended for use inside the Pavilion. Please contact us for more information.
Facilities for blind or visually-impaired
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Facilities for the hard-of-hearing
- An T-Switch induction loop in some areas of the auditorium (please indicate when booking as this facility is not available on the balcony)
- British Sign Language interpretation tours of the building and exhibitions are available on request.