S�o Paulo

Leda Catunda

Fortes D�Aloia & Gabriel | Galeria

Leda Catunda is one of the key figures of geração oitenta, the generation of artists that emerged in Brazil at the start of the ’80s. In contrast to the Brazilian Concretist tradition, which sought synthesis and rationality through geometrically constructed abstractions, Catunda and her colleagues produced works that reconnected with daily life—with its humble narratives, its organic forms, and its ironies. Catunda painted on cloth, saturating it with paint, applying other materials to it, and producing exuberant pictorial tapestries depicting animals, objects, and landscapes. In the ’90s she focused on the formal possibilities of her material, cutting pieces of fabric into various shapes and joining them with rings to framelike structures crossed by interwoven strips of canvas. Some of the cloths she painted, others she sewed and stuffed with more cloth.

Now Catunda has returned to figuration and a certain narrative tone, but in a subtler, almost intangible fashion characterized by great formal sophistication. Retrato (Portrait) (all works 2002), the title work of this exhibition, is made of thirty-nine pieces of fabric cut into droplike shapes and superimposed on a form that resembles a beehive. Each drop is made from pale cloth with nuances of color. Some of the drops show portions of bodies—for instance, the artist’s eyes and mouth or the ears and nose of her husband, Sergio Romagnolo, who is also an artist. In this rounded, fragmented portrait that seeks to present a shared existence in the form of a puzzle, a couple is scrambling the pieces, each merging into the other along with scenes and images associated with the memories they share, such as a tree that stands in front of their house, a beach, or a landscape.

These landscapes of lived memory become the focus of the other works in the exhibition. For example in Cigarras, named after a beach frequented by the artist, layers fashioned from different fabrics—velvet, voile, and painted canvas—form waves fastened to the wall. Suinã, which refers to a kind of tropical tree that bears pink flowers throughout the year (one stands outside the artist’s home in São Paulo), emerges in a form quite different from the actual shape of the tree while nevertheless retaining the feeling of interlacing roots, of earth, and of water. There are three colored fabrics in this piece (green, beige, and blue), and they are sewn, pierced, and overlapped, forming an organic web that crosses over and through itself, penetrating a frame cambered by the stitches. Minas, a work more two-dimensional in nature, is composed of drops made of various blue cloths sewn onto a single plane, producing a dramatic intensification of color and texture. Created after the artist witnessed a flood in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, the image becomes, in its literary and emotional resonance as well as in its formal and pictorial theatricality, an emblem of the power of Catunda’s painting. The “art of softness,” to quote a phrase the artist has used in reference to her work, moves the viewer by its sensuality and exuberance but also by the rigor of its construction. Catunda is working at the height of her powers.

Katia Canton

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford Landers.