By Pollyana Quintella
Ridyas was nineteen years old when he first read the “Teoria da poesia concreta” [Theory of Concrete Poetry] of the Noigandres group, twenty-eight by the time he exposed his work at the XIV Bienal de São Paulo, and thirty when he passed away. However, his brief ouvre finds room for itself in a fruitful moment of experimental poetry of the 1970s in Brazil, time when interests focus on the experience outside of and beyond the book, going through voice, body, presence, and visuality.
José Ricardo Dias, known as Ridyas, would start participating in exhibitions with “Expoesia” [Expoetry], in 1973. Organized by poet and professor Affonso Romano de Sant’anna along with the Literature Department of PUC-Rio, the exhibition gathered more than six hundred poets and three thousand poems of visual, sound, and written nature, seeking to stimulate experimentation, as well as to present a generous perspective of that generation. This is the context in which several different branches came together, such as Concrete and Neoconcrete Poetry, Poema/Processo, Práxis, Tendência, Violão de Rua, Tropicalism, Geração 45, among other groups and movements. Tables placed under the pillars of the university building displayed typed and handwritten texts, fastened and stapled to be read and leafed through. Back then, it was quite an unusual model of presenting poetry, normally attached to book launches, soirées, and public readings. “Expoesia”, which would still know other editions, pointed towards a poetic production more permeated by culture and contaminated by the challenges of its time.
Nevertheless, it was a double path. Augusto de Campos, in the introduction to the first edition of “Teoria da poesia concreta” (1965), already recognized how the concrete poetry was making contributions to advertising, newspapers, book layouts, TV slogans, and even bossa nova. In Ridyas, there is also the presence of a gaze already used to an accelerated communication, among ads, headlines, and movements. The crisis of the verse incorporates speed. Above all, the poem is rhythm, dynamic structure. The space is a compositional element, shedding light on the construction of an environment of immersion for the word as a graphic-spatial situation.
A major example of this is his participation in the 1977 edition of the Bienal de São Paulo. The institution was going through structural changes back then. After the death of Ciccillo Matarazzo, creator of the event, an Art and Culture Advisory Board was instituted, with enough freedom to conceive the exhibition program and its conceptual axes. Among them, a core named “Proposições contemporâneas” [Contemporary Propositions] envisioned seven different themes, one of which was “Poesia espacial” [Spatial Poetry], where Ridyas found his place among other poets, like Álvaro de Sá, Wlademir Dias Pino, and Reynaldo Jardim. In its description, the board understood the poetic space as a concept to be further discussed and challenged, “whether in a sheet of paper, in a building, or even the universe itself.” If the paper form was a burden for experimentation – it must be noted that even today literary criticism finds it difficult to assimilate what is outside of the book –, the situation seemed auspicious to promote a meeting point of word and body.
That was the moment when the artist presented his “Poema espacial – Rodovia” [Spatial Poem – Highway]. A central highway, curved in space, makes the word, seen in perspective, move hastily. The contemplation space merges with that of passage, displacement. On the sides, smaller poems pepper the composition: “ASA” [Wing], “FETO” [Fetus], “FOME” [Hunger], “FRAGMENTOS” [Fragments], “MORTE” [Death]. The modern aspect of the city is contrasted with words that pass through the life cycle of a man, in a clash of temporalities.
Moreover, the interest of concrete poets towards the solutions offered by Eastern ideograms in their search for verbal concision is also present in the artist’s work. While the Western word represents pure arbitrariness in the relation between form and signification, the ideogram attempts to recall what is represented, thus emphasizing the visual aspect. Following this path, Ridyas pursues that which can substantiate the meaning of a word in the random shape of letters (as in the case of “FETO”, “MORTE”, “ASA”). In other poems, a gesture over the word consolidates its meaning: in “FRAGMENTOS,” the shattering of letters; in “FOME,” the disappearing of the name due to progressive bites. The importance of the support must also be observed: in “FETO,” the poem’s structure suggests the shape of an egg; in “MORTE,” that of a tombstone. Yet, in each and every example, there is a quest for visual synthesis.
If Décio Pignatari considers every poem as “a planned-out adventure,” for Ridyas the poem is a spatial, immersive adventure, where one can travel over. The text is no longer merely a code, but rather matter and presence. We could also bring it closer to poet Ferreira Gullar and his “Poema enterrado” [Buried Poem], the “first poem in world literature having an address.” The “Poema espacial – Rodovia” [Spatial Poem – Highway] also requires an address. As Haroldo de Campos would put it, “not an art that presents itself, but rather one that makes itself present.”
With his premature death in 1979, his oeuvre remained considerably untouched until not very long ago. In 2017, curator Ángel Calvo Ulloa exhibited some of the artist’s works, notes, projects, and documents at Ateliê Fidalga, in São Paulo. That same year, Central Galeria reproduced the installation presented in the 1977 Bienal. Such is the context of the acquisition of Ridyas’ works by the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, introducing the artist into a national public collection for the first time, almost forty years after his death. We still lack critical readings of his work, as well as his broader insertion in the chapters of art and poetry of the 1970s. Let us hope this moment is now.
Assistant curator of Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR) and independent researcher. Holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Art History at UFRJ and a Master’s degree in Contemporary Art and Culture at UERJ, with a research on the art critic Mário Pedrosa. She was part of the curatorial team of Casa França-Brasil (2016), co-edited the USINA magazine, and was a columnist of the Agulha journal. Quintella also curated exhibitions in other institutions and independent spaces both in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, paying special attention to the intersection between poetry and visual arts.
Formerly called Repertoire, the Masters Section was created in 2017 and focuses on works produced until the 1980s, thus establishing dialogues between Brazilian and foreign artists who have expressive oeuvres, yet very little exposure in the national market. The 2019 edition is curated by Tiago Mesquita. Represented by Central Galeria, Ridyas is one of the selected artists to integrate this section. The 15th edition will take place from April 3rd to 7th at the Bienal Pavilion (Ibirapuera Park).
*This text is part of a series of columns published on SP-Arte website. The opinions expressed in these articles are the invited author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the institution.