In this, her second New York solo show, Beatriz Milhazes, a resident of Rio, fulfills her promise as one of the most talented and exciting young painters from Brazil. She presents nine large, lush paintings that seem to envelop the viewer in cascades of flowers, silk, jewels and lace. The painting Naked Blue is an exercise in hypnosis. In this work, layers of concentric circles, a few of them trimmed in red and white roses, are set in motion by two symmetrical groups of blue circles on either side of the canvas. The entire canvas seems to pulsate. Her technique is an unusual marriage of painting and collage. On a sheet of plastic placed on the floor, she paints elaborate and colorful patterns, which, when dry, are peeled off of the plastic and applied to the canvas.
In a recent conversation with the artist, she told me that many of the forms she uses come from things traditionally associated with women, such as jewelry, dresses, sewing and embroidery. But she avoids directly addressing issues of gender, and insists that the work is firmly rooted in the realm of abstraction. Certain works, such as Red Indian, seem to be steeped in Eastern philosophy and appear to be useful instruments of meditation. Milhazes acknowledges that many people read her works as mandalas, but such an interpretation is of little interest to her. Childhood memories of elaborately dressed statues of saints in churches are more probable source material for her art.
In The Four Seasons, the largest, and perhaps most resplendent work on view, Milhazes paints a background of interlocking brown and cantaloupe-colored rectangular shapes and green paisley patterns. All of the fluid movements that the painting conveys stem from the interplay of the colors and shapes. Yet, one of the most compelling aspects of the work is the peculiar sense of depth in each painting. She deconstructs space in an almost Cubist manner. Images seem to remain in a constant state of flux. Planes seem to clash, mesh or sometimes completely dissolve. Everything in Milhazes's work is contingent upon its shifting facets of light.