O Moderno

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  • Provenance

    Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
    Private Collection, London
    Phillips, London, Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Monday, June 27, 2011, lot 9
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Beatriz Milhazes’ oeuvre is imbued with Brazilian traditions intermingled with modernist ideals epitomized by the striking painting in this lot, O Moderno, 2002. Through her work Milhazes strives to induce an intensely emotional, sensual approach through sensory immersion to her art, while pursuing a rational and analytical approach to the history of painting. She creates spaces of intense visual content that explicitly flaunt an exuberance of color, texture, and detail. These compositions are perfectly balanced and reflect the command of her geometric and chromatic experiments which have placed her at the vanguard of the international art scene.

    The different periods in her oeuvre prove the pivotal role her motifs have played in her practice. As the principal element in her work they inform the viewer of the level of complexity that she has reached in, for example, the experimentation with color. Furthermore, her body of work is cyclical, as she repeats several motifs in various forms and intensities. Even at the onset of her career, Milhazes would organize her exhibitions in such a way that she would display older works alongside newer ones in order to demonstrate how her aesthetic had evolved and to illustrate her innovations in the manipulation of geometry and color. As a matter of fact, one of the more ingenious aspects of her work is her innovative transfer painting technique she developed in 1989. Considered to be the most characteristic element of her artistry, the technique involves painting individual motifs in acrylic paint onto clear plastic sheets so that she can manipulate and layer them; a method reminiscent of the way collages are made. By allowing her to freely explore the placement and layering on a given canvas, the transfer method also produces rich, irregular surfaces that give the paintings a prematurely aged feel. Her painting involves a process of immersion, which allows her to continually self-critique her works, and meticulously reworks them and refines them. One of the outcomes of this process can be seen in the use of the decorative skills traditionally cultivated by women that include: embroidery, lace making, beadwork, flower arranging, and gardening. By alluding to these cultural references, she creates a complex dialogue between the craft of painting and the repetitive skills required by these decorative pursuits.

    Milhazes is also heavily influenced by the baroque aesthetics of the 17th and 18th centuries, as evinced by her use of circular forms, like the ones we see in O Moderno, 2002. This aesthetic influence can be seen by the dozens of circles overlapped and layered onto one another that create multiple and competing focal points. It is an accumulation of decorative forms that denote optical depth, a depth that is contrasted by the pictorial fatness. In addition, her modernist influences are evident in the strong color palette and feature rounded, voluptuous forms that she borrowed from Tarsila do Amaral. Another modernist influence is Oswald de Andrade’s Antropófago Manifesto, which encouraged Brazilian artists to create their own unique forms through foreign influence. She also found inspiration in Henri Matisse who led her to introduce decorative references into the space of her canvas; in a similar way that Matisse did with his use of arabesques and floral elements to fatten the sense of space. Her canvases are also imbued with Bridget Riley’s and Sonia Delauney’s optical explorations, as seen in Milhazes’ use of sharp geometric patterns, circular compositions, dense use of line gradients, and color configurations.

    This lot, O Moderno, 2002, illustrates all the salient features of her body of work described above. One is immediately charmed by the explosion of overlapping circles, one over the other, informed by a baroque aesthetic; executed in vibrant and contrasting colors, reminiscent of Sonia Dalauney’s palette. These geometric circles also provide us with psychedelic movements reminiscent of Op artist Bridget Riley. One can also see the arabesques and decorative references learned from Matisse and the sharp palette borrowed from Tarsila do Amaral. Paradoxically this harmonious composition is also a visual extravaganza that reminds us of fireworks in the Brazilian carnival. Critic Paulo Herkenhoff consummately summarizes the mastery in Milhazes’ color, her motifs, as well as the modernist and Brazilian traditions imbued in her work when he so aptly states: “Milhazes’ color mutates as it includes: Ivan Serpa, precious stones, Volpi, carnival allegories, Guignard, crochet, Bridget Riley, lacework, Mondrian, Festa Junina, Yves Klein, chitão, Baroque churches, Matisse, corn cakes, Waldemar Cordeiro, Carmen Miranda, colonial tiles, Oiticica, processions, Ione Saldanha, Salvador, Parati, and Tarsila” (Perez Art Museum Miami, Beatriz Milhazes—Jardim Botânico, Miami, 2014, p.36).

  • Artist Bio

    Beatriz Milhazes

    Brazilian • 1960

    Beatriz Milhazes is best known for her vibrantly colored yet calculated compositions. The artist has cited Baroque architecture, lace work, Carnival decoration and the flora of the Jardim Botanico in Rio de Janiero chief among her inspirations. Milhazes' artistic practice is akin to monotype or collage in that the artist first paints motifs directly onto transparent plastic sheets and later applies them to the canvas, leaving the plastic to dry. The superimposed image allows for overlapping and layering, resulting in a textured canvas and a distorted central focal point. While seemingly chaotic, Milhazes' compositions are perfectly balanced due to the artist's technically sophisticated use of geometric forms and chromatic color palate.

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Ο ◆21

O Moderno

2002
acrylic on canvas
118 1/8 x 59 in. (300 x 150 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "Beatriz Milhazes 'O Moderno' 2002" on the reverse.

Estimate
$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

sold for $1,265,000

Contact Specialist
Kaeli Deane
Head of Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1352

Latin America

New York Auction 18 November 2015 6pm