Judith Luan, a key figure in the Brazilian concrete movement, has passed away at the age of 100, according to the Museo de Arte de São Paulo, which is currently hosting a retrospective exhibition dedicated to her.
Lauand, the sole female lead at Grupo Ruptura, has created sporadic installations where geometric precision served to celebrate straight lines.
Born in Pontal in 1922, Luand began her career during an economic boom in Brazil. President Juscelino Kubitschek’s administration initiated a massive urbanization project, including the construction of the new capital, Brasília. As might be expected, the artists responded to the sudden societal shift with avant-garde forms of expression, embracing geometric abstraction that experimented with unconventional materials and avoiding the subjective seriousness of their North American contemporaries.
Over the course of her career, Luand’s style has changed radically. In the mid-1950s, she graduated from the Escola de Belas Artes in Araraquara. Working in the school’s preferred style, she produced figurative landscapes. Later on, she would completely abandon photography and engage in abstraction.
Her breakthrough came in 1952, when she visited the historical exhibition “Ruptura” at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo. At the time, she was working as a show hostess at the Bienal de São Paulo, where she came into contact with Geraldo de Barros and Waldemar Cordeiro, two co-founders of Grupo Ruptura who were included in this show. They admired her early pictorial work, and welcomed her into their group.
Her work spanned gouaches, drawings, collages, and paintings, and had a fragile inner logic that appealed to aesthetic citizens. Concrete art, as defined in the 1930s by his predecessor, artist Theo van Doesburg, constitutes works “constructed entirely out of purely plastic elements, namely planes and colours”.
It fulfilled this mandate, but instead of chasing the appearance of automation, it allowed for imprecise angles and wandering lines. Using heavy brushstrokes and layered paint, I made it appear to go up like stitches along a seam.
Lauand participated in MASP’s first National Exhibition of Concrete Art in 1956, and from 1965 to 1969 he was a regular at the Bienal de São Paulo, an impressive achievement for a former employee of the gallery.
She was the subject of a retrospective in MASP. The first was held in 2011; The second is currently on display and contains 128 artworks. Despite her high profile in Brazil, she didn’t get much institutional notice abroad until recently: In 2013, she did a survey at London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery.