Amilcar Augusto Pereira de Castro (Paraisópolis, Minas Gerais,1920 – Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, 2002). Escultor, gravador, desenhista, diagramador, cenógrafo, professor. Muda-se com a família para Belo Horizonte em 1935, e estuda na Faculdade de Direito da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), de 1941 a 1945. A partir de 1944, frequenta curso livre de desenho e pintura com Guignard (1896 – 1962), na Escola de Belas Artes de Belo Horizonte, e estuda escultura figurativa com Franz Weissmann (1911 – 2005). No fim da década de 1940, assume alguns cargos públicos, que logo abandona, assim como a carreira de advogado. Paralelamente, em seus trabalhos, dá-se a passagem do desenho para a tridimensionalidade. Em 1952, muda-se para o Rio de Janeiro e trabalha como diagramador em diversos periódicos, destacando-se a reforma gráfica que realizou no Jornal do Brasil. Depois de entrar em contato com a obra do suíço Max Bill (1908 – 1994), realiza sua primeira escultura construtiva, exposta na 2ª Bienal Internacional de São Paulo, em 1953. Participa de exposições do grupo concretista, no Rio de Janeiro e em São Paulo, em 1956, e assina o Manifesto Neoconcreto em 1959. No ano seguinte, participa em Zurique da Mostra Internacional de Arte Concreta, organizada por Max Bill. Em 1968, vai para os Estados Unidos, conjugando bolsa de estudo da Guggenheim Memorial Foundation com o prêmio de viagem ao exterior obtido na edição de 1967 do Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna (SNAM). De volta ao Brasil, em 1971, fixa residência em Belo Horizonte. Torna-se professor de composição e escultura da Escola Guignard, na qual trabalha até 1977, inclusive como diretor. Leciona na Faculdade de Belas Artes da UFMG, entre as décadas de 1970 e 1980. Em 1990, aposenta-se da docência e passa a dedicar-se com exclusividade à atividade artística.
Amilcar Augusto Pereira de Castro was born in Paraisópolis, Minas Gerais, on June 8th, 1920. Firstborn son of a judge, then appellate judge, chairman of the State Court of Justice, professor of the Law School at UFMG – Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, author of books, Amilcar Augusto de Castro, PhD, and Maria Nazareth.
My father was a judge. My contact was with the legal world. It was strict. I went to Law school. On my second year, Guignard arrived at Belo Horizonte. Interested, I went there. I attended Guignard’s free drawing and painting course. I graduated in Law. Tried to advocate. But I noticed I didn’t have talent nor patience to advocate. I got a job at the Court of Justice, it was a federal one, which facilitated after requesting to be transferred to Rio de Janeiro. Brought the job along. It was 1952. I was married. Kept on making sculptures, drawings, always. My first bending exhibit was of golden copper, that same year.
Amilcar sets the initial date of his pathway in the year of 1945 – of the clay sculptures. Figurativo. The abstract between 50 and 52. Forever.
I’d carried out many researches, in several things, wire, plaster, clay, head, hand, torso, woman. Then, I was tempted into an abstract art. Since then. Exploring iron plate. I did something in copper, glass, wood, wire. Then, I discovered the iron plate, and from that moment on, took it as my work material. In 1953, there was the Biennial exhibit of São Paulo’s 4th centennial, where I exhibited my first folding sculpture. It was a triangle. Three rectangles folded diagonally. Each rectangle could be an sculpture.
The milestone, let’s say – the starting point, may fall in when he won the 2nd Biennial of São Paulo/1953 award, event where he exhibited his first constructive sculpture, repeating this participation in a special room in the editions of 1979, 1987, and 1989. In 1955, he received the Prêmio de Escultura do Salão de Arte Moderna da Bahia Award. But there is a start in 1947, when he participated in the 5th Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna of the Ministry of Education and Culture. In Rio de Janeiro, federal capital at the time, where he stayed for twenty years, he started a career as a layout artist, working at A Cigarra and Manchete magazines, later performing the graphic project of Jornal do Brasil, revolutionizing Brazilian journal-making.
Newspaper was handmade. There was no machine. This is how it went to the workshop. In each person’s handwriting. The Jornal do Brasil? A community center around the newspaper. An information medium about, mainly about, poetry. We used to shake lots of bandstands. Which was really good.
The 50s put him ahead of Max Bill’s ideals, concretism, years at the forefront, discussion of new ways and possibilities for Brazilian art, but always continuously developing his experiences in drawings and sculptures. In 1956/1957, when the 1st Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta took place, the differences arose between the groups from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and consequently the neoconcretism, with a space to spreading his thoughts by publishing the Manifesto, in 1959, the SDJB – Suplemento Dominical do Jornal do Brasil. Amilcar, in his experiences, initiated the works with iron. In the beginning they were sculptures of cutting and welding, in which the plate was cut in parts that, welded in a position determined by the artist, created the volume and space of the artwork.
I like iron. I like iron plate. The iron color. And it is easy to work with. Everybody knows how to work with iron. There is no mistery in the iron plate. In the material. In the rawness of the big plate. Iron strength is there until it is heated. Then it bends. The cut and the bend. Form and counterform in permanent dialog. I think the material is pretty. The cut, the weld. It is very simple. I like the most simple, most direct. It is my way of being. And it is in anything. I’m simple. This is what structures the whole sculpture. Facilitates the job. I feel it as space. The rust? Rust is part of the artwork, the material, wants the material, is part of the iron plate. But I’d also chosen the iron for the color. The iron color.
He won, in 1965, a scholarship to Fundação Guggenheim and, in 1967, the Prêmio Viagem ao Exterior Award from Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna. He went to New York not knowing how to speak English well, with his wife and three children, where he stayed until 1972. He had difficulty in working with iron. And finding it. He left the cut and the bend aside. He went on to stainless steel. Keychains. A ring, in different sizes and shapes, and hung a square, a circle, a rectangle, and he was set. With this research, where light, form and space would unveil themselves by the balance, won Guggenheim again, artworks exhibited in New York exhibitions. Back to Brazil, he went to live in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. Took a civil service exam for Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. Became a professor, taught from 72 to 90, 18 years.
The School of Arts is different from Medical, Law, Dentistry. These schools have the past as essential to the future. To fill a tooth, you need to do it like this, and this, because it has already been done previously, many times, and this is how you do and teach it. In the Arts, the person wants the future soon, it doesn’t matter what has been done before, because you want to invent things. The goal is not teaching the past. It’s to create the future. These students believe in what they wish to and in the power of this wish.
Numerous activities in arts – sculptor, engraver, designer, painter, layout artist, set designer, created jewelry in brushed gold, professor of composition, sculpture, drawing, and form theory at the Faculdade de Belas Artes of UFMG. From sculptures in steel, iron, wood, making unfolds in the plane, cutting and bending, the projection of the artwork in the space, spatial experiences on the strictness of the form, and, this being said, he adds: I draw. Cut the plate in a piece, bend it. Another piece. But I’m more concerned with the external space that enters the plate when I bend it. Though, it is this entrance in the plate that creates something I find different, the co-opted space on the bend. By cutting and bending the plane plates is how I reach the space. Over the time, I’ve made some variations. The discovery of the bend was essential, because with it, the forms don’t close themselves. Later, I made little works without bends. Only cuts. I went on to only cutting. I increased the thickness of the plate so it would stand, have a strong presence. And this added some weight. That’s when I started to make smaller sculptures.
The organization of the space arises from them without a prior project. In a part of his last sculptures, he does not make bends, just cuts in thick walls of iron where light goes through. They are mobile solids. I like it, yes. I like showing the still unseen space. Sculpture is the form of silence where light keeps the shadow and moves.
About the drawings, he insists: I’m not a painter. A painter interprets the world through color. I sit down and draw. I don’t interpret the world through color. I do it by construction. I do it by line. I’m a drawer. The painter structures space in color. I structure space in line. I consider myself a drawer. According to the organization of this line in space, it could be an sculpture, it could be a drawing. The line is the structure, always. The color enters as a brushstroke, as emphasis. That’s why it is a drawing. It isn’t painting. I’m taken by the line. The line of the hard pencil. The pencil on the paper without shadow, without the easiness of the shadow, nor an eraser to fix. I think it is very good. It makes a groove on the paper. A cut. Goes throught it. I’m a graphic artist. I organize the line graphically. I believe in the freest and then organize it. Graphic colors are yellow, blue, red. There are no other colors in graphic art. It has nothing to do with painting. My colors are graphic. Graphic art draws in black and white. Some bring a color. What I do is an exercise of a graphic artist. In black and white, even if there is another color.
No matter the way, in Amilcar’s work we face a strictness in the thing created, in the economy of means, forms, conciseness. The energetic brushstroke of the paint for screens, or with the iron, reveal traces always harmonized in its set, giving us the poetry of the stiffness of the form.
Economy of colors? There isn’t. What is there is that I’m a graphic artist and in it I already exceed in colors. The use of light, the moment, space, symbolic? I like it, I take pleasure in being constructive, in making a sculpture that leaves no remnants, leaves no pieces, by being a perfect solution. It is my way of thinking.
– The day-to-day of making sculptures, making sculptures, making drawings, I already have both things together. It is a joy to make both things together. To scratch a paper, the drawing. Nothing is predetermined. I make a scratch, think it’s good. Keep going. If I don’t, I throw it away.
– You witness something you don’t know, your consequence. If it’s not good, you throw it away. It is an internal research. A pursuit. And I think this is very good.
– I’m horrified of definition. You close yourself. Lock yourself. I sit down. Did it, ok. The criterion is the sensitivity. Theory, definitions, information, don’t work. The essential thing is your sensitivity. The rest is gibberish.
– I don’t believe in inspiration. Every day I want to do it. Every moment I want to do it. There isn’t this extreme moment that it simply clicks. I think that is nonsense. I draw it, and cut and bend it. There isn’t much more to it.
– The joy of making it is never the same, although it might seem like it. It is always a discovery.
– I believe you should do what you feel like. This is the right way, I think.
– Art is an act of justice. Without justice, there is no art. The truth, the justice, the beauty. They’re all the same thing. It’s greek. Comes from them. What is truly beautiful and righteous.
In 1977, he received the award from Panorama da Arte Brasileira of Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, in the drawing category and, on the next year, the sculpture award. He had a special room at the Biennial of São Paulo in 1979. In 1989, the Paço Imperial (Imperial Palace), in Rio, organized a retrospective of his work. In 1992, a new retrospective was organized by the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. In 1995, he received the National Award granted by Funarte and by the Ministry of Culture. Two years later, he was laureated in the inaugural edition of the Prêmio Johnnie Walker de Artes Plásticas Award. In 2001, he did his last living exhibition at Pinacoteca de São Paulo, presenting giant sculptures and banner-paintings, hung by the space. The new production fostered a scale not yet present in his work after inaugurating a new studio in Nova Lima, Minas Gerais. He passed away in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, on November 22, 2002, victim of cardiac failure, after complications from a coronary angioplasty. It remained to us, his admirers, whether for one way, or the other one, his strict, calculated, planned drawing, or a drawing improvised on time, on paper, screens or the iron in his sculptures. Every one of them keeping the constructive unity. And in all of them, the consistency, completeness and clarity of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century in Brazil.