Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Beatriz Milhazes at Stephen Friedman Gallery

Everyone loves Beatriz Milhazes right now. She’s got a series of huge works at Gloucester Road, she’s got this solo outing at Stephen Friedman Gallery, and she’s even done a large mural for the restaurant at Tate Moderne. It’s this last example which suggests an intriguing relationship to Fiona Rae, another artists who constructs essentially decorative abstract images out of found patterns and repetitive stylistic quirks.

The big paintings at Stephen Friedman immediately show why she has been so popular. Firstly, she’s a painter right? Everyone loves to buy paintings to hang on their huge expensive apartment walls. Secondly, they’re inoffensively abstract with lots of interesting details to entertain the eye. But she’s no interior decorator! Thirdly and most importantly, the work is textured, roughed up a little, and conveys just enough of a hint of authentic Brazilian bohemianism.

It’s the distressed, scraped back and collaged surfaces that enable Milhazes to have her decorative abstract cake and eat it. They signify Brazil, Latin America, life in the barrios, authenticity, ‘real life’ as only those notionally outside the pampered first world are able to live it. But look at those abstract patterns! She may be from the slums (or the art school or wherever) but she aspires to live a modernist dream just like us. She is the perfect compromise or, as the press release has it, “occupies a unique position between Western & Latin American traditions”. Just like Gabriel Orozco’s geometric paintings, in fact.

It’s hard not to respond favourably to these large, absorbing pictures, and I’m sure that many will be responding favourably with their chequebooks. But still I can’t help feeling a slight distaste for such a self-exoticising artist.


Anonymous canvas art said...

Great article!

3:41 pm  

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