Athos Bulcão was born exactly 100 years ago
The Brazilian artist Athos Bulcão died just 10 years ago today, aged 90. Monday he would have been 100 years old and was famous for working alongside Oscar Niemeyer, one of the most important architects of the 20th century. Together they were key figures in the development of modernism.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, he first studied medicine but abandoned it in favour of the arts, making friends with Neimeyer along the way. They continued to work together for most of their lives, with Neimeyer referring to Bulcão as his “constant and necessary friend”. Bulcão likewise spoke of their close working relationship, and likened it to that between a film director and composer – where his patterns added orchestration and colour to Neimeyer’s expansive volumes.
Part of his magic is his approach to pattern. After designing the individual graphics for each tile, he often left the final on-site installation to construction workers – preferring to allow the element of chance, and the workers’ lack of art-school-type preconceived notions to do the work. The result is an array of organic, shifting designs, consistently lively for their absence of tight repeats. Our eyes dance over the surfaces, with patterns too big for our minds to grasp all at once.