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Julião Sarmento

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

In the 1997 Venice Biennale, Portuguese artist Julião Sarmento exhibited a large mixed-media work from his “White Paintings” series titled To Take Off the Lace and Blow the Flower, 1997, an enigmatic image of three female figures (two of whom are headless) posed around a table. For his current show at the Hirshhorn Museum, he created five new “White Paintings” and two sculptures loosely based on the figural elements of To Take Off the Lace. In the resulting work (all 1998), Sarmento achieves a stylistic unity through an economy of means and an almost “styleless” rendering of form. In the paintings, the headless female figures are executed in sparse, even nondescript lines that locate forms in space—an expansive white ground that, in some cases, seems to be paint soaked through the canvas from the back—but have little vitality on their own. Similar compositional elements are used in the

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