They do things differently in Brazil, said Mark Stevens in New York. The South American nation's 'œpolyglot, hybrid culture does not kowtow to the centers of American and European power,' and never has. Consider the late-1960s artistic flowering known as tropicÃ¡lia, now being celebrated in an eye-opening exhibition at the recently reopened Bronx Museum of the Arts. This multimedia movement brought together musicians, sculptors, and performance artists eager to challenge both the country's authoritarian regime and longstanding artistic traditions. Though it had 'œmuch in common with the youthful, mix-it-up spirit of dada, fluxus, and the happenings' that were all the rage in the U.S. and Europe, the combination of energy, style, and social conscience was utterly unique.
Rarely is political art so much fun, said Holland Cotter in The New York Times. Most people know tropicÃ¡lia through its music, which gained worldwide fame in 1968 when guitarist Caetano Veloso released an album by that name. 'œIt's fabulous stuff,' swirling bossa nova, American pop, and political lyrics into a potent cocktail. But the movement actually began the year before, in the visual arts, with a celebrated piece of installation art (called'”what else?'”TropicÃ¡lia) by HÃ©lio Oticica. Incorporating sand, bamboo, and numerous allusions to the notoriously poor favela neighborhoods, its 'œexoticized, sensorily stimulating, walk-in version of modernist abstraction' inspired his fellow countrymen. A re-creation forms the centerpiece of the Bronx show, while music from Veloso and Gilberto Gil plays on video loops nearby. Just remember that all three artists were eventually exiled, and Brazil's military dictatorship put an end to tropicÃ¡lia by 1970.