José Leonilson at Americas Society
Americas Society’s new exhibition of José Leonilson’s work is small but allows visitors to dive deeply into Leonilson’s life and story. His work differs from that of many other well-known modern Brazilian artists such as Lygia Pape, Lygia Clark, and Helio Oiticica (all of their work has been exhibited in NYC recently; you can still see Helio Oiticica’s work at the Whitney) in that his work is mostly personal. While there are hints of the political, the thread which connects his work is his personal feelings and private struggles, particularly after he was diagnosed with AIDS. You can see his loss of and search for his identity in the years after he was diagnosed.
While I found his work intriguing, it’s easy to look over the deeper meanings of his art, particularly to those who do not know Portuguese. To aid in understanding, there are plenty of plaques with interpretations of his work, as well as most translations. For those interested in Latin American and/or modern art, the exhibition will be extremely interesting and can consume much of one’s time. But visitors should be aware that there may be some gaps to fully appreciating the work. I encourage everyone to check out the free (!) exhibit and share their thoughts.