Geraldo de Barros

Brazil 1923-1998
Painter, photographer and designer

The most profound conceptual experience in the production of modern furniture in Brazil was led by Geraldo de Barros, a major artist of the Concrete Art movement in the country. Interested in new technologies and processes, Geraldo’s career was consistently permeated with artistic experiments, particularly in photography and painting. His affiliation with design was influenced by the “gute form” principle advocated by Max Bill. Bill was the founder of the Ulm School of Design, which considers that beauty results from function and that objects should be a vehicle to bring art from museums into homes. At the invitation of Dominican friar João Batista in 1954, Geraldo was one of the founders of Unilabor, a furniture factory that operated in the model of a worker’s self-managed cooperative. He was responsible for designing the furniture. In order to rationalise the production system, he developed a line of products that shared many components in common.


This can be perceived in the regular and geometric planes and lines evident in the shelves and sideboards of modular structure, which originate from another of Geraldo’s central references: the Gestalt theory. Geraldo de Barros designs were imbued with social and political beliefs. These beliefs came from his Christian humanist ideals and from the modern utopia of technical progress, added to his conviction that the artist should play a social role and contribute to the transformation of everyday life. In 1964, months after he stopped working with Unilabor, Geraldo started another furniture enterprise: Hobjeto. Here he deepened the modular concept, personalising the products to suit his clients, offering them tailored projects that allowed them to combine a number of modular components. Geraldo resigned from his position as director of Hobjeto in 1979, when he suffered the first of a series of strokes that left part of his body paralyzedStarting in 1983, with the help of a joiner, he created more than 200 pieces made of plastic laminate in the Hobjeto plant. The pieces were based on geometric structures, in a series called Jogos de Dados, a reference to his Concrete Art paintings from the 1950s.

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