Candy Walls

Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes sets heads spinning at James Cohan Gallery.

poster for Beatriz Milhazes Exhibition

Beatriz Milhazes Exhibition

at James Cohan Gallery
in the Chelsea 26th area
This event has ended - (2008-10-10 - 2008-11-15)

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In Reviews by Alex Callender 2008-10-13 print

Beatriz Milhazes’ new paintings and collages, on display until November 15, 2008 at James Cohan Gallery, are a kinetic mix of abstraction, color and pattern composed with all the sexual energy of a thirteen year-old girl assiduously applying gold paper, unicorns and pieces of lace to the inside of her scrapbook. The work is bright and playful, and juxtaposes information to the point of over-stimulation.

Beatriz Milhazes opening night at James Cohan Gallery, featuring ''Sinfonia Nordestina,'' 2008. Photo © 2008 Alex Callender

To be clear, there is nothing adolescent about this work. On the contrary, Milhazes is an established Brazilian artist who executes her large-scale studies of overlapping pattern and shape with virtuoso facility. The color choices are so deftly applied that the images appear to perform visual acrobatics, with the viewer’s focus tumbling around the picture plane. The geometric forms are seamlessly layered in acrylics, forming a complex spatial relationship in which the background and foreground are constantly trying to reassert themselves. As a whole, the show appears a very large piece of candy, where there is always a more attractive bite in your peripheral view.

Beatriz Milhazes opening night at James Cohan Gallery, featuring ''Brinquelandia,'' 2008. Photo © 2008 Alex Callender

This is perhaps where Milhazes’ exploration of what is “glossy” and what is substantive comes into play. While the work clearly displays great technical craft, the paintings are also highly decorative, laden with pinks for the sake of pink, and dots for the sanctity of the dot. In her collages, Milhazes frequently uses candy wrappers and other pieces of advertising that one could read as pop cultural artifacts, speaking to the repetitive veneer of consumer culture. On the other hand, the wrappers are shiny and seductive and fit perfectly on their own into the aesthetic language of Milhazes’ paintings.

Beatriz Milhazes opening night at James Cohan Gallery. ''Mulatinho,'' 2008. Photo © 2008 Alex Callender

Once the initial flood of spectacle and decoration subsides, other aspects of this language come forward. Milhazes cites the sprawling garden across from her studio in Rio de Janiero and the festival of Carnival as two of the strong influences within her work. The new paintings seem to follow a conversation about organic and synthetic materials. They seek to combine as one event a meandering tree vine, a bright pink and gold piece of signage and a Mentos wrapper. The wild interlocking shapes and pattern reflects the lineage of Brazilian folk art, while the sharp edges, meticulous layers and mixed media have the dominating stamp of graphic design.

Even though the scale of her work is large, Milhazes undoubtedly relishes over every piece of information, carefully collecting her resources, taking pictures, collecting swatches and gathering ideas for her scrapbook. There is an earnestness to Milhazes’ indulgence in colors and materials, which makes the paintings sincere instead of stylized, and sweet instead of saccharine.

Alex Callender

Alex Callender. Alex Callender is a visual artist and adjunct instructor who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Alex hopes to see the day when this country's student loan system dissolves into a harmless gas and secondary education becomes a right. She also writes a bit. » See other writings

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