Monday, May 9, 2016

ROBERTO BURLE MARX, Brazilian Modernist: Review By Polly Guerin

Avenida Atlantica, Copacabana, Rio de Janiero
 Looking out my hotel window in Rio de Janeiro I was captivated by the panorama of the continuous mosaic promenade that borders Copacabana Beach's main thoroughfare, "the most famous in Brazil," where native sea breeze-resistant trees and palms appear along Avenida Atlantica. The mosaic pavement, a gigantic composition more than two miles long with a pattern composed of bold abstract motifs in white, black, and red-brown stone evokes modernist imagery in Roberto Burle Marx's best- known project.
      "Who was the genius of such an innovative pavement plan?"  It was  Brazil's native son, a multi-faceted architect as well as painter, print maker, ecologist, naturalist and musician whose artistic style was avant-garde and modern. From Copacabana Beach to Biscayne Boulevard in Miami Beach, throughout Brazil and around the world, the artistic and prolific work of ROBERTO BURLE MARX (1909-1994) has made him one of the most prominent landscape artists of the twentieth century.  He is famous for designing over two thousand outdoor spaces, such as public parks, private and home gardens.  Sidewalks and gardens were never the same again. His abstract and undulating curvilinear sidewalks were colorful and opened up a new world of artful expression for public appreciation. Yet, Burle Marx's oeuvre reached out into many other areas of artistic expression. Famous projects the multitude of gardens that embellish Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil founded in 1960 and featuring buildings by famed architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Mineral Roof Garden, Banco Safra headquarters, Sao Paulo
Through nearly 140 works, the Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist exhibition at the Jewish Museum, through September 18, 2016, presents the first New York City exhibition to focus on Burle Marx in more than two decades, and the first exhibition in the United States to to showcase the full range of this artistic output.  A major exhibition highlight is a magnificent, nearly 90-foot-long wool tapestry created by the artist in 1969 for the Santo Andre Civic Center, near Sao Paulo. As is characteristic of his work from that period, bold colors, geometric, and biomorphic abstraction fuse in a gigantic composition, creating a veritable woven garden. This monumental work has only once before been exhibited outside Brazil. 

      The exhibition explores the richness and breadth of the artist's diversified and extensive oeuvre-his landscape architecture, painting, sculpture, theater design, textiles, and jewelry--as well his reputation as an ecologist, naturalist and musician whose artistic style was avant-garde and modern. 
      The son of a German-Jewish father and a Brazilian mother of French, Portuguese, and Dutch descent, Burle Marx embraced modernism in he early 1930s, as the movement was taking hold in his country among artists and intellectuals. Using abstraction as his guiding principle, and grand sweeps of voluminous local foliage and colorful flora, Burle Marx devised a new form of landscape expression, revolutionizing garden design.
Victoria amazonica waterliliesgarden of Fazenda Vargem Grande
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, gardens in Brazil primarily followed French models, featuring a symmetrical layout and imported flora. Burle Marx did away with symmetry and advocated for the use of native plants, making numerous incursions into the Brazilian country side and jungle throughout his life in search of rare species.

       He was a horticulturist and a pioneering ecologist who only used plants suitable to the environment and was one of the first to speak out against the destruction of the Amazon rain forest.  
      Roberto Burle Marx's gardens are works of modern art, not only because they make use of flat planes, abstract shapes, and bold colors, but because of the way they behave: they prompt awareness of oneself in relation to the built environment.  In this exhibition, Burle Marx's global influence and legacy is also examined through the work of a number of international contemporary artists with ties to Latin America. It is no surprise that today's artists find Burle Marx a fruitful source of inspiration and you will, too.
     Ta ta Darlings!!! The work of Roberto Burle Marx tugs at our collective imagination...that the world can be a magical place, where sidewalks move in abstract directions and color and pattern inspire a new way of thinking about art.  Fan mail  always welcome, I'd love to hear from you, send an email to Visit Polly's other Blogs at www.pollytalk,com and click on the link in the left-hand column to the subject that resonates with your interest on fashion, amazing women, visionary men and poetry.

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