Inside Tropicalismo with Mestre Dicinho

Mestre Dicinho dances O Quebra at Casa de Vidro, c. 1970. Photo: Hélio Hirsch. Courtesy of the artist

An exhibition at Sé Galeria, São Paulo clarifies and celebrates Dicinho’s relationship to Arte Popular

In a small house, now a gallery, in a peaceful modernist alley in São Paulo, Mestre Dicinho orchestrates an outburst of shamanic jungle animalia. Using vibrant, fauna-inspired works that merge sculpture and painting, the seventy-eight-year-old artist presents a frozen psychedelic bestiary. In knowing dialogue with the canonised artistic movements of modern and contemporary Brazilian art, the exhibition clarifies and celebrates Dicinho’s relationship to Arte Popular – nonerudite Brazilian artistic production, previously read as art naïf – an alignment that has kept him beyond the art-market and institutional map for decades.

On purple plinths in the centre of the first room are three large animal sculptures – a rooster about to crow (Galo, 2016), an opulent macaw seemingly in flight (Arara, 2015) and a docile horse, head turned to stare at its own tail (Cavalo, 2017). The dotted and colourful patterns that are painted onto the sculptures, triggering an optical impression of movement, are also applied to a series of wall works, which use a similarly pointillist patterning on relief surfaces created with a mixture of paper pulp, plaster and glue; a paste that Dicinho has named copageti and is the main material in all the works of the exhibition.

Dicinho’s decision to combine sculpture and painting goes alongside his merging of figurative and abstract motifs, offering an artistic conception based on the integration of natural and artificial as perceived by different cultural groups, such as Brazilian indigenous communities. His works, in intricate dialogue with each other, establish an aesthetic ‘ecosystem’ that wouldn’t completely work if the parts were separated.

Arara, 2015, copageti (glue, paper, plaster and paint paste), 156 × 93 × 66 cm. Courtesy the artist

The show is a reminder of Dicinho’s centrality within Tropicalismo, the Brazilian transdisciplinary artistic counterculture of the 1960s that encompassed music, cinema, fashion and graphic design executed by – for the most part – self-taught artists. Dicinho is well known for the psychedelic cover of the 1969 album of the powerhouse diva Gal Costa, and for a goat sculpture inspired by Jimi Hendrix that is an icon of architect Lina Bo Bardi’s celebrated Glass House (1950–51) in São Paulo.

On the upper floor of the gallery dwells another group of animals, among them a whimsical floor-based sculpture of a dog (Cachorro, 2019), its neck spiralling in on itself, and the wall-hung O Corvo (1998), a painted relief depicting a raven. Combining curves and sharp angles, Dicinho’s design emphasises light and shadow over the sculpted surface, but as much as this produces a modernist aesthetic, its references fuse the Pop art imagery of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour (1967) and the vernacular artistic expressions of Dicinho’s region, such as the work of those artists who produce toys and masks for Afro Brazilian religious festivities.

As an oppositional force to the military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985, Tropicalismo found in avant-garde experimentation and psychedelics an expanded cultural matrix of what Brazil could look and sound like, rejecting exotic, authoritarian and foreign prejudices. In this sense, Dicinho dwells on the study of animals not only for its direct relationship with Brazilian fauna, nor exclusively for ecological reasons, but to investigate more respectful ways of organising social relations, via an attentive gaze at natural relations and its unrestricted possibilities.

Mestre Dicinho at Sé Galeria, São Paulo, 26 August – 21 October

Most recent


We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, revised Privacy.