São Paulo, Brazil
December 12, 2020 – May 30, 2021
With the opening of the show Beatriz Milhazes: Avenida Paulista—on December 12th at Itaú Cultural and on December 18th at MASP—, one of the most important present-day Brazilian artists gains the biggest monographic exhibition on her career in Brazil. Panoramic and retrospective, the exhibition brings together around 170 works. Among the large and small paintings and the sculptures, which can be found at the museum, and the prints, collages, and acrylics, which can be found at Itaú Cultural, there are some never-before-seen works. Most of the works come from private collections and will be revealed to the general public for the first time in this exhibition.
The title of the show is a reference both to a painting by Milhazes from the early 2000s (Avenida Brasil) and to the address of the two institutions that are co-organizing this exhibition—celebrating, in a way, this unprecedented partnership. Avenida Paulista is also the name of one of the works by the artist which was made especially to be exhibited at MASP.
The curator of Museu de Arte de São Paulo’s exhibition is Adriano Pedrosa, artistic director from the institution, he is assisted by Amanda Carneiro, assistant curator at MASP; the curator of Itaú Cultural’s exhibition is Ivo Mesquita. Both Pedrosa and Mesquita have a long-lasting relationship with Milhazes and have been keeping up with her career for years.
“This is the biggest exhibition dedicated to Beatriz Milhazes, and it is only possible due to the unprecedented collaboration between two institutions such as MASP and Itaú Cultural. The show covers more than three decades of her production of paintings, collages, prints, drawings, textiles, as well as a broad documentary material. In this sense, it is a truly unique opportunity to get to know one of the most relevant living Brazilian artists, whose work is already widely well-established in the international artistic scene”, says Adriano.
Milhazes is one of the most important Brazilian artists both in the national and in the international artistic scene. She is recognized by her iconic production and works with a complex repertoire of images that are associated with different themes, origins and sources, oscillating between abstraction and figuration, geometry and free form.
The artist was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1960. She went to the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage in the early 1980s, when she was part of the exhibit Como vai você, Geração 80? along with a heterogeneous group of artists who, in summary, sought to reclaim painting as a reaction to the Brazilian conceptual art from the 1970s.
Milhazes’ paintings, prints, collages, and sculptures reflect Brazilian shapes and colors, they record artistic stories and cultures from the Baroque to Modernism, through the popular sayings to the erudite. Her works also establish relations between herself and her closest surroundings, Rio de Janeiro, her hometown, and Jardim Botânico, the neighborhood where her studio is located.
Currently, her works are in institutions such as Centre Pompidou, in Paris; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, in Madrid; The Museum of Modern Art, in New York; Tate Modern, in London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Tokyo.
The simultaneous exhibition at both institutions covers the work of the artist between 1990 e 2020, underlining the unfoldings of the technique “monotransfer”, invented and named by her, on transparence and printing, which permeates her thinking and her intervention in the different artistic media and languages with which she works. The exhibition is divided into two large groups: paintings and sculptures at MASP; prints, collages and acrylics at Itaú Cultural—not exclusively.
In both places, the audience will be able to see, for the first time in such a comprehensive way, the transformations of Milhazes’ work since the 1990s and to have access to her most recent artistic production which was not yet broadly exhibited in cultural institutions. During the 1990s, the artist produced her first prints with the Durham Press. Presented at Itaú Cultural, these works enable the audience to notice how the interlocution between prints and collages and painting transformed her artistic practice. In the same decade, in a partnership with her sister, the choreographer Márcia Milhazes, the artist began to develop works for dance shows, a fruitful relationship that brought her close to sculpture.
At MASP, the show is part of a year-long schedule of exhibitions and public programs dedicated to the Histories of Dance and will present, in an unprecedented way, an inversion of the collaborative process between the Milhazes: Márcia will occupy the space of the museum—Beatriz was the one who was always occupying the space of the stage. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the dance performances by Márcia’s company, which were scheduled for 2020, had to be postponed and rescheduled to 2021.
At the museum, the second basement gallery will include 50 large paintings in self-supporting structures which will allow the audience to view the front and back works properly. The sculpture “Gamboa” (2010-20) will be hung from the ceiling and will work as the scenery for the stage on which Márcia Milhazes’ Dance Company will perform.
On the mezzanine, 12 small paintings, up to 1 meter, will be presented in an intimate setting which will work as the path for the first basement gallery where more paintings will be exposed along with a series of 7 drawings titled Aleluia (2020) and the tapestry Carioca (2007-08). The collages that resulted from a series of workshops which recall the Club Infantil de Arte from the museum, in which artists from the contemporary scene are invited to propose an artistic activity for the children will also be presented.
In the Acervo em transformação (Picture Gallery in Transformation), on the first floor, the sculpture Marola and the painting Avenida Paulista were already installed; the latter was made especially for this exhibition and will be exhibited for the first time for the visiting audience along with 10 other never-before-seen paintings.
With 79 works, the three floors of the Itaú Cultural’s exhibition space will be dedicated to Beatriz’s work. Her prints and collages, the basis of her thought and creative process, will be the focus, but, besides them, three acrylics will also be presented—Com quantos paus se faz uma canoa (1993), O Campo (2001), and Wild Potato (2013). The curator Ivo Mesquita focused mainly on her work procedures. The first floor, for example, will feature 13 collages and 4 prints that reveal how she builds her compositions. A mini-documentary (around 20 minutes long) on the artist and her work, made by the institution’s audiovisual center and by the photographer Manuel Águas, will add to the presentation.
On the first floor, 21 works organized around the circles that exist within Beatriz’s work will occupy the entire space. These works help understand the way the artist uses the structures of rosettes, compasses, circular shapes, and rings and how through these elements she creates and develops a dynamic that moves the composition in the foreground and makes her paintings, prints and collages achieve strong visual appeal. “One cannot rest when looking at Bia’s work, there is always a movement, a spin, a line, the viewer is captured by what they see in the foreground without even noticing what stands behind,” points out Mesquita.
Finally, second floor brings 40 works with a more didactic approach. The works will show, for instance, how one idea unfolds into another in Beatriz’s work: a painting can be restructured as a print, which can then originate new collages. The audience will be able to perceive how the same theme can be revisited and used by her in different works that are, sometimes, years apart from each other.
According to Mesquita, one of the most interesting points is to show how the artist established her own language, style and imagery. “If you look by a certain perspective, there is rationality, mathematics, accuracy, determination, but she also takes risks,” says Mesquita. “Bia’s work is not what you see, but what is behind it,” he adds. Amanda Carneiro highlights the mastery with which the artist manipulates shapes and colors. “For the younger audience, this exhibition is a good and positive surprise. There is a new generation of viewers and visitors that will get in touch with her work live for the first time who can delve into the more technical aspects of it,” says the assistant curator.