Beatriz Milhazes, one of my very favorite contemporary artists, is being honored with her first US-museum career retrospective at the Perez Art Museum Miami. The exhibit is entitled “Beatriz Milhazes: Jardim Botânico” and runs Sept. 19, 2014 through Jan. 11, 2015. The works represent the full progression of her colorful abstract compositions from the organic, circular shapes based on textiles and flowers to her recent return to the formal grid.
Milhazes is a Carioca (native of Rio de Janeiro) who trained at the Parque Lage art school in the 1980s. Art runs in the family: Her mother was an art-history professor, while her sister is a choreographer with her own modern dance company (Beatriz has designed theatrical sets for the company’s performances.) Her artistic breakthrough came during a sojourn in Paris, where she discovered Matisse. The idea that painting could be decorative, colorful, and at the same time, rigorously abstract, set her free to develop her own approach to subject matter and style. Other artistic influences include Brazilian floral textiles and lace, the annual Carneval samba competitions at the Sambodromo in Rio, and most importantly, the city’s famed botanical gardens. Since graduating from art school, Milhazes has maintained a studio in a converted millworker’s house in the historic neighborhood bordering the Jardim Botânico.
Milhazes uses a form of decalcomania to create her large-scale abstractions. By pouring thin coats of liquid acrylics on plastic sheets, then scraping the dried paint shapes off the plastic and gluing them onto the canvas, she constructs her images in slightly tattered layers that reveal the colors below.
I first encountered her work in London, where Transport for London hosted an installation of her work titled “Peace and Love” in the Gloucester Road Tube station in late 2005 and early 2006 as part of its Art on the Underground exhibit/installation series. Gloucester Road is the Tube station closest to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Getting on and off the train and seeing her colorful work really brought a lift to my spirits during the gray, cold London winter. I’ve been a fan ever since.
- The Wall St. Journal has a feature that examines the performance of her work on the market and popularity among high-roller art collectors (behind a pay wall.)
- US Vogue featured a 2-spread profile by Dodie Kazanjian which was one of the few bright spots in the otherwise dismal September 2014 issue. (The publication does not have any online supplemental material to the print version.)
- Architectural Digest offered a news post about the artist and her technique.
- Blovin ArtInfo has an in-depth article about Milhazes, along with a slideshow.
- Artnet offers biographical information and a large number of images of Milhazes’ work.
- Beatriz Milhazes is represented in the US by Stephen Friedman Gallery.