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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
© César and Claudio Oiticica
Brazilian, 1937 - 1980
Vermelho cortando o branco
Red Going through White
Oil on canvas

20 1/8 x 23 5/8 in. (51.1 x 59.9 cm)

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art, museum purchase with funds provided by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund

Arts of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean

The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art

As a member of the Grupo Frente (1954–56) and later the Neo-Concrete movement (1959–61), Hélio Oiticica explored ephemeral materials, multi-sensorial art, and spectator participation. Vermelho cortando o branco is part of Metaesquemas (1957–58), a series of grid-based compositions in which the artist virtually dissolves the two-dimensional plane and its surrounding frame. The series comprises more than 350 works and owes its name to the combination of the Portuguese words meta (beyond vision) and esquema (structure).

Oiticica considered Metaesquemas as something in between painting and drawing, or an evolution of painting beyond representation. The series involves an “obsessive dissection of space” by means of color, reduced to the horizontal and vertical play of monochromatic rectangles and squares that constantly defy the picture plane. The Metaesquemas depend on a “mirror effect”—that is, the inverted repetition of geometric configurations that plays with the eye of the beholder creating a highly dynamic perceptual field, which introduces ambivalence and disruption into the plane.

Related ICAA documents:
Gilberto de Abreu,“Oiticica longe do Guggenheim causa briga entre museus,” 1994 (record ID 1232944)
Waldo Rasmussen, [Letter to Adolpho and Fulvia Leirner], 1993 (record ID 1232906)