José Leonilson - Latin America New York Monday, May 23, 2016 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Galeria Superficie, São Paulo
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    The work of Brazilian artist José Leonilson is at once intimate and universal in its examination of homosexuality and personal identity. Born in 1957 in Fortaleza, Leonilson moved with his family to São Paulo in 1961 and began taking art classes at the Fundacão Armando Álvares Penteado (FAAP). During his time at the FAAP, Leonilson studied under prominent Brazilian artists, including Nelson Leirner and Regina Silveira. In the early 1980’s, Leonilson traveled to Europe, living in Madrid and later Milan. In Milan he was exposed to the ideas and practices of the Transavantgarde artists who believed in re-introducing traditional mediums of drawing, painting and sculpture as a response to the onset of conceptual art.

    While many of Leonilson’s early works are comprised of drawings and paintings influenced by the Transavantgarde movement, the present lot marks an important turning point in the artist’s oeuvre, as it was one of his last in the traditional medium of painting. In 1989, Leonilson began to experiment with embroidery, influenced by untrained Brazilian artist Artur Bispo do Rosario and Shaker crafts he had seen on a trip to the United States. After Leonilson’s diagnosis with HIV in 1991, and his progressive deterioration, the artist completely abandoned painting and drawing and solely created sewn works. In Rios do Mundo (1990), Leonilson has created a dynamic composition through the use of color contrast. The central yellow river pops against the black background, complimented by the artist’s use of red, pink and white. The organic forms and loose brushstrokes indicate the artist’s interest in developing a personal, subjective expression. The use of cowhide, instead of traditional canvas not only creates an intentionally round composition but also adds a unique material texture to the work. Like much of Leonilson’s work, Rios do Mundo (1990), is an intimate piece that reveals the artist’s struggle to continue to develop a unique means of personal expression despite his worsening condition that limited his ability to do so.


Rios do Mundo

acrylic on cowhide
41 x 47 in. (104.1 x 119.4 cm)

$100,000 - 150,000 

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

Latin America

New York Auction 23 May 2016