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Women Leading The Way

The Women’s Century — Female Perspectives in Brazilian Art exhibition at Cecilia Brunson Projects, foregrounds the unique role played by women in the development of modern and contemporary art in Brazil.

This group exhibition brings together works by artists from different generations and spanning several movements and styles.

In the 1920s, several Brazilian artists, writers and musicians had already embraced the idea of forging an avant-garde that combined native and regional references with elements taken from European modernism. It is widely acknowledged that the first exhibition of modern art in the country took place in 1917, when expressionist painter Anita Malfatti (1889-1964) presented more than fifty ground-breaking works in Sa?o Paulo, shaking the cultural establishment and fuelling the debate around the need for new approaches in art-making. This culminated in 1922 in the legendary Sao Paulo arts festival – the Modern Art Week.

Miriam Inez da Silva, 1969

The creation of the first modern art museums in Brazil in the late 1940s coincided with the emergence of a new generation of artists who fervently embraced geometric abstraction. Three of the artists included in The Women’s Century started their careers at the height of this new trend in Brazilian art; all have embraced and expanded the vocabulary of geometric abstraction into new directions.

While the lexicon of Latin American geometric abstraction has become widely assimilated into the Western canon in the 21st century, other artistic manifestations still remain under recognized. Miriam Inez da Silva’s work is a case in point. Her figurative paintings are deceptively naif in style – indeed during her lifetime her work has been predominantly exhibited and discussed within the context of Arte Popular (Outsider Art) in Brazil. In reality, Miriam attended art school and developed her career within the cosmopolitan context of Rio de Janeiro, having deliberately appropriated a visual code linked to ‘popular’ tradition in order to create works that encompass the conflicting forces of modernisation and maintenance of colonial and patriarchal structures that characterise Brazilian society in the 20th century.

Says Cecilia Brunson: ‘Spanning almost a century, The Women’s Century – Female Perspectives in Brazilian Art brings together for first time in UK a small but extraordinarily significant group of works by some of the women who played a pivotal role in the development of modern and contemporary art in Brazil, alongside contemporary artists who are working today, each of whom is extending that legacy with work that is relevant to Brazilian art today.’

The selection of works includes Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973), Eleonore Koch (1926-2018), Lygia Pape (1927-2004), Lygia Clark (1920-1988), Miriam Inez da Silva (1937-1996), Beatriz Milhazes (b. 1960) and Adriana Vareja?o (b. 1964).

Cecilia Brunson Projects, 2G Royal Oak Yard, Bermondsey Street, SE1 3GD until 15th July.

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