Friday, September 2, 2016

EXHIBITIONS: Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist, ends Sept. 18 at NYC's Jewish Museum

"He creates a dazzling zone of pleasure ..." 
                                  Wall St. Journal 

Roberto Burle Marx (1909–1994) might just be one of the greatest artists 
in the world whom very few people have ever heard of -- at least not until the Rio 
Olympics and a stellar exhibition at NYC's Jewish Museum brought 
his stunning landscape architecture and jazzy, lyrical work in 
stone and textiles to the fore.

Roberto Burle Marx painting a tablecloth in the open-sided studio of his home, 1980s. 
The azulejo tile walls and fruit-and-flower chandelier are also his work. 
Photograph © Tyba

Though Marx utilized a wide variety of media -- painting and sculpture, textiles, jewelry, costume and set design, ceramics and stained glass -- it was for his spectacular undulating seaside pavements on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach that he has always been best known, and remains influential to a whole new generation of international artists.

    According to a curator's note, "He was also an avid art collector, a talented baritone, a consummate cook, and a visionary self-taught botanist and ecologist. For him, all these endeavors were equally important, facets of one another."

 Avenida Atlântica, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, pavement designed by Roberto Burle Marx, 1970. © Burle Marx Landscape Studio

Mineral roof garden, Banco Safra headquarters, São Paulo, 1983. 
Photograph © Leonardo Finotti

 The son of a cultured German Jewish father and a Brazilian Catholic mother who vigorously supported his artistic tendencies, Marx viewed the role of the landscape architect in idealized and spiritual terms: to assuage mankind's exile from the 
Garden of Eden and recreate the essential bond between humanity and nature.
Above: Plan for the Minister’s Rooftop Garden, Ministry of Education and Health, 
Rio de Janeiro, 1938. Gouache on paper. 

Marx embraced modernism in the early 1930s, as the movement was sweeping Brazil. 
He revolutionized garden design by using abstraction and grand amoeba-like swaths of colorful vegetation, eschewing symmetry and using locally sourced plantings 
as much as possible. In his sixty-year career he designed over 2000 gardens 
worldwide and discovered nearly 50 plant species.

Edmundo Cavanellas Residence, designed by Oscar Niemeyer 
with landscape design by Roberto Burle Marx (1954)

"A garden is a complex of aesthetic and plastic intentions; and the plant is, 
to a landscape artist, not only a plant - rare, unusual, ordinary 
or doomed to disappearance - but it is also a color, a shape, 
a volume or an arabesque in itself."

Detail of Rooftop Garden of the Ministry of Education and Health 
Photograph © Cesar Barreto

"Indiscriminate planting makes a salad"

Garden of the Fazenda Vargem Grande, Gomes residence, Areias, 1979. 
© Burle Marx Landscape Studio, Rio de Janeiro. 

As a young landscape designer, Marx was captivated by such attention-grabbers as the giant water lily Victoria Amazonica, with its circular, flat leaf, sturdy enough to bear the weight of a child. As Burle Marx later wrote, "It was in the German capital that I discovered for the first time, a large quantity of Brazilian plants being used for landscape design purposes. We Brazilians were not using these plants because we 
considered them vulgar.”

~ oOo ~ 

Closeup of tiles placed along Copacabana Beach

After its presentation at the Jewish Museum, New York, the exhibition will travel to the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle in Berlin, Germany (July 7 - Oct. 8, 2017), and the 
Museu de Arte do Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (November 2017 - March 2018).

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