Cosmic Shelter: Hélio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida’s Private Cosmococas
In the mid-1960s, the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica [1937-1980] began embracing joyously transgressive modes of performance, film, and installation to champion marginalized persons and their culture. Made in collaboration with the Brazilian filmmaker Neville D’Almeida [b.1941] while Oiticica was self-exiled to New York during the 1970s, the original installation series of five Bloco-Experiências in Cosmococa–Programa in Progress [Block Experiments in Cosmococa–Program in Progress, 1973], or Cosmococas, operate on many levels to transform pop and underground culture into an explosive supra-sensorial experience. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Cosmococas, the artist’s nonprofit foundation, the Projeto Hélio Oiticica (PHO; based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Lisson Gallery have organized a year-long celebration for 2023 during which the series will be installed in cities around the world.
As a public institution aligned with Oiticica’s egalitarian values, the Hunter College Art Galleries have joined the 50th anniversary initiative and will present the exhibition Cosmic Shelter: Hélio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida’s Private Cosmococas at the Leubsdorf Gallery from October 12, 2023 to March 30, 2024. The exhibition is curated by Brazilian-American curator Daniela Mayer, a graduate of Hunter’s MA Art History program and Advanced Curatorial Certificate, whose work focuses on transnational art networks between Brazil and New York during the mid-twentieth century, as well as the intersections between identity and various social, cultural, and political histories. Mayer is leading a cohort of graduate students in the Department of Art and Art History through the curatorial process to realize the exhibition and accompanying public programming, including MFA performances, screenings of experimental Brazilian films, and bilingual tours.
Seeking to expand the viewership of their work beyond typical art-world audiences, Oiticica and D’Almeida created two sets of instructions for each Cosmococa—public and private—with the latter grouping only exhibited since 2018. Cosmic Shelter will present the United States premiere of two private Cosmococas, CC2 Onobject and CC3 Maileryn. The CC2 includes Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band music and slideshows of her book Grapefruit projected onto four surrounding walls and across furniture draped in white sheets to create a fully immersive environment. The CC3 features two projected slideshows of images manipulating Marilyn Monroe’s face, the mambo stylings of Peruvian singer Yma Sumac, and shallow basins of water for guests to contemplatively step in. The exhibition will also include archival materials, such as facsimiles of Oiticica’s notebooks and photographs taken in Oiticica’s downtown lofts, to provide historical context for the layers of political commentary imbued into the subversive, psychedelic series of Cosmococas. The themes raised in the exhibition Cosmic Shelter resonate with HCAG’s mission to act as a site for collaborative and experimental engagement with art and pedagogy while exploring the questions about arts access and the history of Latinx artists in New York.