Although not in total agreement, Pedrosa was certainly aware of Ferreira Gullar’s arguments expressed in the neoconcrete essay ‘Theory of the Non-Object’ of 1959 central to which (as Donald Judd would observe in ‘Specific Objects’ six years later) was the increasing difficulty in distinguishing categories such as painting and sculpture. How the critic contextualised such an ambivalence underwent a shift between 1960 - when he made his historical reference to Pevsner and Gabo’s spatial constructions in relation to Clark’s work - and 1966 when he evoked the ‘transcendence of the pictorial plane into the social space’ in order to define Hélio Oiticica’s work as postmodern. Pedrosa’s assertiveness with regard to the emancipation of Brazilian art is thus a product of this shift.
In other words, Oiticica’s encounters with Brazilian popular culture through his experiences of samba at the Mangueira shantytown provide a social context for the formal innovations Pedrosa had previously observed in the work of Lygia Clark. Oiticica’s achievement, the underlying subject of Pedrosa’s 1966 essay, was to create a syncretic relationship between the high ideals of constructivist formalism and the popular extravagance of carnival, through the possibility of a common experience of colour. Central to Pedrosa’s distinct critique of Clark’s work in 1960 and later of Oiticica’s work in 1966, was the appearance of Pop Art.
The Brazilian concrete artists’ interests in mathematics, information theory, graphic design and science in general, are surprisingly close to those of the Independent Group (IG) in Britain, also active during the 1950s. The IG was a loose association of artists, critics, architects and historians that converged during that decade around the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), and are usually associated with the emergence of Pop Art in Britain.
Beyond the preoccupation with form and a mathematical basis for composition, concrete art possessed an innate openness to new scientific processes and fantasies, communication theories and their consequences or applications (mass advertising or publicity methods and language). It is perhaps not coincidental that many of the artists and poets involved in concrete aesthetics in Brazil became variously engaged in publicity and advertising. In this context one could consider Décio Pignatari’s 1987 statement: ‘Today I see concrete poetry as a form of pop art’.
The work of Waldemar Cordeiro, spokesman for the concrete artists in S?o Paulo, who produced some of the most powerful exchanges with Gullar during the 1950s, is demonstrative of the trajectory between concrete art and pop. Arriving during the 1960s at what he described as Pop-creto, Cordeiro’s shift is a significant indication that the ‘radical leap’ that Brazilian artists took between the 1950s and the 60s was not an isolated event, restricted to the particular genius of figures such as Clark and Oiticica. In both examples - Brazil and Britain - the constructivist tradition, and in particular the precepts of concrete art, seem to have been central to the shift towards popular and mass culture.
Pedrosa himself suggested that the new cycle brought by postmodernism (the replacement of the purely artistic by the wider concept of culture) was arrived at thanks to the concretist and neoconcretist production, leading to the conclusion that Brazilians were no longer merely followers but precursors. For Pedrosa, it was art’s involvement with the wider world that indicated its postmodern condition. This referred to a transferral from the constructivist preoccupation with form as an autonomous artistic activity, to the abandonment of form - or indeed the object - and the adoption of a cultural engagement with the events in mass media, music, in short, culture at large.