Everything old is new again. The cyclical nature of taste and fashion seems to operate on this edict but not so in art. Works from the past decades can still be fresh and relevant but contingent upon the sensibilities of the times or its conventions needing a counter intuitive reaction.
Last October 23rd, it was proof beyond measure when the works of Brazilian artist, Judith Lauand, came to be showcased and the long overdue exposure to North America came with Judith Lauand: Brazilian Modernist, 1950s-2000s. More than five decades later this first solo exhibition has waited its time so now the precise, bold and kinetic artistry which punctuated a rich career is evidenced by the works selected by curator, Dr. Aliza Edelman.
Concretism was a movement prevalent in the 1950s at the zenith of Brazilian boom times where the geometric shapes follow a methodical and mathematical construction that played well in the changing times where innovations in architecture, design, fashion and the post war optimism gave license to explore. Being one of the few female artists in the movement in Brazil puts Lauand into a league of her own. The overall collection of works demonstrates the analytic yet artistic tone strongly demonstrated in the forms, composition and color. The paintings are absolutely clean representations of geometric abstraction and pop art. The lines are rendered perfect but the orientation in skewed arrangements sets off a rhythmic Samba where the punctuations are steady and exhilarating. The works on gouache behind frames of glass looks as fresh as they did in the late 1950s. The neat and precise technique is what every graphic designer should study. I gravitated more to a trio of such works where one of them is the color red and white. Emblazoned with the clear letter E’s and in a stack that leans off to the side and is crisscrossing – well the E could have been made intoan F with a reverse of it then this might be campaign ready for a Fendi advertisement. The best part of seeing not only an artistic flourish is that the very refined aesthetic held up quite well into present day standards.
Observing the late 1950s to the 1960s works solidified the proficiency and substantial work Lauand had created and continuously re-works to her present series which established her as a modernist where the works looked as fresh and still innovative as the day she painted them. It is that unrelenting caliber of her oeuvre that translates well into the 2000s. The extensive works on display gave a broad stroke of what it means to be modern perpetually.
The vagaries of what are fashionable, cultural trends and dictates of time can date works of art. However this was not the case in what Lauand made because the purely geometric was given its place to be rooted as the base. Any other decision like repetition, angle turns, concentric lines veering off outside, the amount of space, density and color relation – those were the hallmarks of Lauand that kept her presentation dynamic and electric. There was much thought and critical editing for her works to become quite powerful and remain the purist version of modernity. In her earlier works, she was exploring and taking the leap of trying something new. It may be that she conducted herself in the idiom of – “Know the rules first then you can break them.” The forms are concrete in their base idea but she took a different route in representing the rhythms and pictorial narrative. Lauand kept it acerbic but allowed a sense of brevity to permeate in the work. It is not cold and antiseptic or devoid of character. The refreshing points come in the irregularity. Hitting that perfect niche and tone are the makings of modernity becoming a classic.
Judith Lauand: Brazilian Modernist, 1950s – 2000s
On View: October 23 – December 20, 2014
Gallery Hours: Tue – Fri (10 am to 6 pm), Sat (12 to 6 pm)
Driscoll Babcock Galleries. 525 West 25th Street. NYC, NY 10001
Art Review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
Photography by: Jamie Martinez