São Paulo

Leda Catunda

Estação Pinacoteca/Galeria Fortes Vilaça

Leda Catunda’s retrospective exhibition at Estação Pinacoteca, with seventy-three works dating from 1983 to 2008, coincided with the premiere of a new installation at Galeria Fortes Vilaça. Emerging in the 1980s, Catunda participated in the return to painting and personal expression after a decade of experimental procedures linked to Conceptual art and institutional critique—but in a distinctive manner, painting on fabrics such as towels, sheets, clothing, plastics, and leather, often incorporating ready-made prints into the finished paintings as active parts of a commentary on domesticity.

Initially, Catunda’s paintings had a narrative character. She used simple images such as a lake, a small house, or a spotted jaguar, which already existed as images printed on blankets, for example. One early work, Vedação em quadrinhos (Enclosure on Comics), 1983, is a printed fabric that Catunda merely edited with white paint, hiding some of the figures. Later, her works gradually became more abstract, as she cut cloth into rounded, organic shapes, focusing on negative space, superimpositions, and the contrast between flat, two-dimensional pieces of fabric and others that are stuffed and full of bulges. Almofadas Amarelas (Yellow Pillows), 1991, shows a yellow cushion, cut in geometric shapes, framed by red ribbons.

The present decade saw the emergence of the “morulas,” works made of many layers of fabrics, reproducing the image of masses of cells resulting from the cleavage of the ovum before the formation of a blastula. In this period, Catunda began using personal images by silk-screening them onto fabric, with portraits of friends and family such as Todo o Pessoal (All the People), 2006, and Todo o Pessoal II, 2008. In Mundo Macio (Soft World), 2007, Catunda created a wall tapestry with fragments of fabric printed with images of nature—beaches, mountains, flowers—cut in organic shapes and connected by strings of orange fabric.

At Fortes Vilaça, Catunda had unified her poetics, bringing together the storyteller of the ’80s with the artist who developed her forms in the following decade. It is this union of aesthetic approaches that found its embodiment in this new group of three large-format pieces based on the idea of landscape, probably her best work so far. Paisagem com Onça (Landscape with Jaguar), 2009, is a wall painting composed of hundreds of circular-cut cloth patches outlined with green ink and sewn together to form a single large oval shape, comprising printed cloths of plants, flowers, skies, and a jaguar, and amounting to an encomium to the idea of nature. Duas Árvores (Two Trees), 2009, takes the form of a wall-mounted cutout with branches and crowns made of green cloth from which sprout circular shapes—leaves and fruit—cut in velvet, in shades of green, red, and burgundy. At the base of the trunks, instead of roots, the two trees are united by small lakes made of painted plastic that spills out onto the floor. Finally, Rio Comprido (Long River), 2009, is composed completely of blue plastic over canvas, cut in wavy shapes, allowing a glimpse of a series of negative spaces. Again, this river begins at the wall and invades the floor area, mimicking the spread of flowing water. Catunda uses fabric, plastic, and canvas to build a hybrid of painting, object, sculpture, and collage; to her, pictorial strength derives not from the use of paint but from a vision that unites diverse materials in a vivid image.

Katia Canton

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.