Beatriz Milhazes is a post-modern Brazilian artist, who describes her abstract paintings as “a very strong dialogue of colors . . . dynamic surfaces for the eye . . . a space for a dream.” Her inspiration comes from nature. Colorful floral imagery pervades her compositions, which often feature circular mandala-like patterns. Her small studio in the center of Rio de Janeiro is situated next to the city’s botanical gardens. The influences of the rich variety of tropical plants have made their way into her bright and vibrant work.
While painting and collage form her primary focus, Milhazes also designs books, textiles, building facades, stage sets, and floor work. Her floor work, made from hand-painted ceramic tiles, was shown at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2010.
Milhazes studied public communication in Rio de Janeiro from 1978-1981. She attended Escola de artes visuais do Parque Lage from 1980-1982. She has said that Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, and the Brazilian artist Tarsal do Amaral were her three primary influences.
As a South American artist from Rio de Janeiro, Milhazes was undoubtedly influenced by Samba modernism of the 1930s, although her work also owes something to the Post-Modern Pattern and Decoration Movement as well as to artist Philip Taaffe, who possibly provided a blueprint for her. Nineteenth century embroidery work and the patterns of contemporary “Carnivale” costumes also find their way into her work.
She creates vivid compositions, which incorporate a variety of formats and medium: collage, sculpture, ceramics, mobiles, foil, and paint. She loves to use brightly saturated colors – reds, oranges, purples, yellows – in loopy sinuous forms and baroque curlicues, showing clustered intersecting circles and circles within circles, which give a psychedelic Mardi Gras effect to her work.
For her sixth New York gallery show, she hung just four monumental paintings, explosive depictions of the seasons, in the main space – one painting per wall. The bold scale of her tumbling, levitating compositions in overheated colors evoked balloons, chandeliers, and lanterns as well as the gears and wheels of industry.
These painting were made without direct brushwork by employing a painting technique derived from decalcomania in which Milhazes applied paint to transparent plastic foil. When the paint dried, she mounted the foil on canvas. When the foil was removed, what was left was most but not all of the application. Used repeatedly, the same foil could be used again and again in the same painting or in other works.
Her intricately composed collages were made from everyday materials such as foil and scraps of patterned paper. Her prominent use of shiny gold was inspired by the colorful wrappers of modern day confectionary. She also finds inspiration from the ‘chitao’ which are colorful, cheap, floral Brazilian fabrics found in local market stalls, as well as the local crafts and jewelry produced by Brazil’s indigenous people. Her collages have a more geometric, abstract quality than her paintings, but they exude the same pulsating spirit.
There have been solo exhibitions of her work in foundations and museums in Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Basel, Lisbon, Paris, and Sao Paolo. Her work is in the public collections of the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Carnegie Museum, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sophia, and MOCA Kanazawa, Japan to name a few.