Critics’ Picks

Ana Prata, A and B, 2020, acrylic and oil on canvas, 59 x 47 1/4''.

Ana Prata, A and B, 2020, acrylic and oil on canvas, 59 x 47 1/4''.

Zurich

Ana Prata

Tobias Mueller Modern Art
Waldmannstrasse 8
December 9, 2020–April 30, 2021

Ana Prata is one of the most significant young Brazilian painters. As if any further consecration were necessary, next year she will have a solo show in Lina Bo Bardi’s legendary SESC Pompeìa. Her works are generous, and create that afterglow of pleasure that is disarming, especially perhaps for critics. She paints canvases rather than things, or, as Gabriel Perez-Barreiro phrased it, she is “perhaps not so interested in the thing itself, [but] in how that thing becomes an image on a canvas.”

Her current show, luxuriously arrayed at Tobias Mueller Modern Art, takes the still life as a point of departure, and slowly and judiciously scrolls through its avant-garde phases, from symbolism through to analytical cubism. “Scrolls” rather than “reenacts” because, although there is no question that painting comes first for Prata—that she is a painter and no closet structuralist—her practice is only possible in the era after the screen. Little Table, 2020, for instance, merges still life with portraiture, the grey pinstripe of the tablecloth standing in both for a face and the cloth of a suit, but it is not a portrait of a personality. The painting A and B, 2020, some twenty times larger, with its vivid yellow against a blue-black field, presents what at first sight seems a passionate celebration of outline, but any sense of naivety is undermined by the image-within-the-image, slipped in like a black and white photograph to break the spell. In spite of all the vibrant color, there’s a discernable detachment across her work. We stand in no physical relation to the depicted motifs, the jugs and the fruit that populate her images. They appear for us as signifiers from lost genres, tremendously seductive, but socially distant.