The Swiss artist Max Bill (1908–1994) has long been understood as a principal source for the theory and practice of Latin American abstract artists in the 1940s and 1950s, especially in Brazil and Argentina. This narrative, which pervades the literature on the history of concretism in the region, consistently casts Bill as a staunch defender of rationalism and even as the harbinger of a certain formal rigidity.
This panel challenges these assumptions, recasting Bill’s role in the shaping of Latin American concretism and reassessing his contributions in light of his Brazilian and Argentine peers’ interpretation of concrete art. It disputes the straightforward conflation of Bill’s approach to form with that of his counterparts in the region and reassesses Bill’s interest in mathematical structures in terms of irregular, non-Euclidean notions of space and the viewer’s sensory activation.
After Francesca Ferrari introduces her research for the exhibition “From Surface to Space”: Max Bill and Concrete Sculpture in Buenos Aires, on view at the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA), Heloisa Espada will discuss the contradictions between Bill’s positions and the narratives that describe him as a propagator of strict ideas about concrete art in her lecture “Max Bill: Radical for Whom?” Adele Nelson will then present her talk “Max Bill or Bust: Complicating Brazilian Concretism,” which will reveal how form, as conceived by Brazilian thinkers and makers, stood counter to Bill’s thinking and instead signaled an innovative merging of media.