October 26, 2008

Beatriz Milhazes: Culture eats culture

In the NY Times, Carol Kino profiles Brazilian painter Beatriz Milhazes, who currently has a show at James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea. "Beatriz Milhazes clearly considers herself a geometric abstractionist, those are hardly the first words that spring to mind when regarding her work. Squares often come laced with lines and dots, circles frequently mutate into eye-popping targets, and everything is laden with motifs that evoke the multilayered culture of her home, Rio de Janeiro. There are arabesques, roses and doily patterns, borrowed from Brazilian Baroque, colonial and folk art; flowers and plants inspired by the city’s botanical garden, which is next door to her studio; and thick wavy stripes — a nod to the undulating Op Art-inspired mosaic pavement that the Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx created in 1970 for the promenade at Copacabana Beach. ...Despite the Brazilian feel of her work, there is nothing else quite like it in Brazilian art, past or present, said Adriano Pedrosa, a curator in São Paulo who has known Ms. Milhazes for years. 'She seems to have a quite close relationship with Brazilian art history,” he said, “but that’s because she’s appropriating things.'

He also sees her oeuvre as being related to Antropofagia, a Brazilian movement of the ’20s and ’30s whose name means cannibalism. Mr. Pedrosa described it as 'this concept where the Brazilian native artist appropriates foreign elements and digests them to produce something personal and unique.' In fact Ms. Milhazes often says her major influence is Tarsila, a Brazilian painter who came out of that movement, as well as Mondrian and Matisse.

"'In the beginning,” she said, “I felt a connection between Spanish Latin American and Brazilian, which is more Portuguese: the Baroque churches, the costumes, the ruffles, things that have volume or a sculptural shape.' But ultimately, she said, although she wanted to incorporate all those things into her work, 'I wanted to put them together based on a geometric composition. Because at the end of the day, I was only interested in structure and order.'” Read more.

"Beatriz Milhazes," James Cohan Gallery, New York, NY. Through Nov. 15.

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