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GERALDO DE BARROS  (1923 - 1998, Brazil)

“A photograph belongs to the one who makes something out of it, not necessarily to the one who took it.”

Geraldo de Barros began his investigations into photography in the mid-1940s in São Paulo. Invited by a friend to photograph soccer teams, de Barros’s first camera was built from a kit. Intrigued by the medium, he soon lost interest in pursuing commercial photography. He built a small photo studio and bought a 1939 Rolleiflex and, in 1949, he joined the Foto Cine Club Bandeirante, which was one of the few forums for the city’s photography enthusiasts. Members of the group were interested in pictorial photography and de Barros’s explorations of abstraction were met with little interest; his photographs were almost never included in the club’s exhibitions. That same year, de Barros was invited to create a photo laboratory in the new Museu de Arte de São Paulo, an important gesture toward including photography in contemporary art spaces.

De Barros’s work from this period is characterized by scraped negatives, multiple exposures, and an interest in chance occurrences. He met art critic Mario Pedrosa and became interested in Gestalt theory and occupational therapy. Adon Peres writes, “The experience was to prove crucial for Geraldo, opening the way to far-ranging considerations on figure and form in relation to freedom of representation. Geraldo’s work, likewise, took on an ethical and human dimension that it was to retain throughout his life.” In 1950, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) invited de Barros to exhibit his photographs, and he showed a selection from his Fotoformas series. The exhibition led to a fellowship opportunity to study abroad in Europe. Ironically, his studies in Europe would redirect his artistic work away from photography. While traveling, he studied painting and printmaking, and met important artists and theorists including Max Bill, Giorgio Morandi, and Francois Morellet.

In 1952, de Barros returned to Brazil, and he became a central figure in São Paulo’s Concrete art movement. Interested in industrial design and modernization processes, he founded a collectivist furniture factory, Unilabor, in 1954. “(He) became interested in concepts such as the industrialization of the artistic gesture, the reproducibility of works of art, and, as a natural progression, in design and graphic art,” Peres writes. His work was included in the 1956 Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta in São Paulo and in the 1960 exhibition Konkrete Kunst, 50 Jahre Entwicklung, organized by Max Bill in Zürich. In the mid-1960s, he left Unilabor and founded Hobjeto furniture factory. He also became interested in the social criticisms offered by Pop Art; in 1964, he showed figurative paintings with Nelson Leirner.

Although internationally known for his innovations in photography, de Barros actively worked with the medium only during two periods of his life: 1945-1951, and 1996-1998. In 1993, his photographs from the earlier period were shown at the Musée de l’Élysée in Lausanne. This series of work, called the Fotoformas, drew from the techniques of engraving and collage. De Barros made montages, superimposing images from the urban landscape of São Paulo over geometric forms. In failing health in the late 1990s, he returned to photography, creating a series of work called Sobras, in which he used family photographs as his support for collage, montage, and new geometric explorations. De Barros died in 1998.

Selected Solo Exhibitions



Geraldo de Barros: Unilabor, Kunst-und KulturstiftungOpelvillen Rüsselsheim, Germany


Geraldo de Barros and Unilabor by DPot, Arcadia, Geneva, Switzerland


Geraldo de Barros – Fotoformas, Document Gallery, Chicago, IL, USA


Geraldo de Barros – That’s It, Dip Contemporary, Lugano, Switzerland


Geraldo de Barros: Sobras, Document Gallery, Chicago, USA


Geraldo de Barros: Fotoformas e Sobras, Fundação Arpad-Szenes/Vieira da Silva, Lisbon, Portugal


Geraldo de Barros: Off Center, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, Texas


Geraldo de Barros: Industrial, Galeria Luciana Brito, São Paulo, Brazil


Geraldo de Barros and Photography, SESC Belezinho, São Paulo, Brazil



Geraldo de Barros and Photography, Instituto Moreira Salles, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Tierney Gardarin Gallery, New York, USA



Geraldo de Barros- Jogos de Dados + Sobras (1980-1990), SESC Vila Mariana, São Paulo, Brazil


Geraldo de Barros: What remains? The Photographer’s Gallery, London, UK


Entre Tantos: Geraldo de Barros, Caixa Cultural, São Paulo, Brazil



Geraldo de Barros- Modulação de mundos, SESC Pinheiros, São Paulo, Brazil


Sicardi Gallery, Houston, Texas


Sobras + Fotoformas, Galeria Brito Cimino, São Paulo, Brazil


Fotonoviembre 2007 – IX Bienal International de Fotografía, Centro de Fotografía Isla de Tenerife, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain


Desenho Constructivista Brasiliero, Museu de Arte Moderna Rio de Janiero, Brazil


Fragmentos: Modernismo na fotografia brasiliera, Galeria Bergamin, São Paulo, Brazil



Brasiliana MASP – Moderna contemporanea, Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand – MASP, São Paulo, Brazil


MAM [NA] OCA, Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo, Brazil


Concreta 56. A raiz da forma, Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo, Brazil


Pincelada – Pintura e M´todo, Institute Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, Brazil


Sem título, 2006 – Comodato Eduardo Branddão e Jan Field, Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo, Brazil


Geraldo de Barros, Galerie Guy Bärtschi, Genève, Switzerland


A(s)simetrias, Galeria Brito Cimino, São Paulo, Brazil


Inverted Utopias, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas


Fotoformas- 1923- 1998, retrospectiva, curadoria Reinhold


Misselbeck, Fundacao Gulbenkian, Lisboa


Forma Brazil, The Americas/Society, New York


Sobras e Fotoformas, Retrospective, Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany


Heterotopias," Reina Sofia museum Madrid, Spain


Fotoformas: Retrospective, Musée de L’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland


Sobras e Fotoformas, Instituto Itaú Cultural, Campinas, Brazil


Fotoformas- 1923-1998, retrospectiva, curadoria Reinhold 


Misselbeck, Museum Ludwig, Colonia 


Sobras, curadoria, Rienhold Misselbeck, Sesc Pompeia, Sao Paulo, Brazil 


Geraldo de Barros, Galeria Brito Cimino, São Paulo, Brazil 


Geraldo de Barros- no Acervo do, Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Galeria Brito Cimino, Sao Paulo, Brazil 



Traces on the Glass, FotoFest 1998, Sicardi-Sanders Gallery, Houston, Texas



Geraldo de Barros, pioneer, Cultural Center of the Bank of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Geraldo de Barros Fotoformas, Cultural Foundation of Curitiba, Brazil


Geraldo de Barros, photographs, Alexandre Mottier Gallery, Geneva, Switzerland


Fotoformas, Camargo Villaça Gallery, São Paulo, Brazil



Geraldo de Barros, photographer, Museum of Image and Sound, São Paulo, Brazil


Casa de Rosas, São Paulo, Brazil


Geraldo de Barros, painter and photographer, Musée de L’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland


Dice games, Mercato Del Sale Gallery, Milan, Italy


The artist’s universe when young, Paço das Artes, São Paulo, Brazil


21st São Paulo Biennial, Brazil. Awarded second prize


Dice games, Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo, Brazil


Dice games, Contemporary Art Museum of Campinas, Brazil


Tschudi Gallery, Glarus, Switzerland


Thomas Cohn Gallery, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Fernando Milan Gallery, São Paulo, Brazil


42nd Venice Biennial, Italy


15th São Paulo Biennial, Brazil


12 Years of Painting, Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo, Brazil


9th São Paulo Biennial, Brazil. Awarded acquisition prize


Atrium Gallery, São Paulo, Brazil


Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo, Brazil


Second São Paulo Biennial, Brazil. Awarded the acquisition prize


First São Paulo Biennial, Brazil. Awarded the acquisition prize


Fotoforma, São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand Museum of Art, Brazil


Municipal Theater of São Paulo, Brazil

Selected Public Collections

São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand Museum of Art, Brazil

Contemporary Art Museum of São Paulo, MAC-USP, Brazil

Pinacoteca of the state of São Paulo, Brazil

Itamaraty Museum, Brasilia, Brazil

Museum of Image and Sound, São Paulo, Brazil

Biennial Foundation of São Paulo Collection, Brazil

Venice Biennial Collection, Italy

Curitiba Museum, Parana, Brazil

Elysée Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Tschudi Gallery, Glarus, Switzerland

Swiss Bank Union Collection, Geneva, Switzerland

Contemporary Art Foundation of the state of Geneva, Switzerland

Contemporary Art Museum, Grenoble, France

Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany

Archivio Della Nuova Scrittura, Milan, Italy

Max Bill Collection, Zurich, Switzerland

Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, New York

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas

Museum of Modern Art, New York

Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami