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The Artistic Autobiography of José Leonilson

October 19, 2017

Long before the age of chronicling our private lives through tweets, selfies, and Facebook statuses, José Leonilson chronicled and shared his inner world through canvas and thread. His autobiographical artistic practice has given the Brazilian artist, who came of age during the 1980s, a fresh, modern feel nearly 25 years after his death.

“His ruminations of his private life and his intimacy are very much in vogue nowadays,” said Gabriela Rangel, chief curator of the Americas Society in New York. “I think a millennial sees that, and identifies with what Leonilson is saying. He doesn't have any filter. He just says what he thinks and what he feels. That's something very contemporary—that kind of unfiltered account of your life.”

This fresh relevance can be seen throughout the works on display in José Leonilson: Empty Man, on view at the Americas Society through February 3rd. Co-curated by Rangel, Susanna Temkin, and Cecilia Brunson, the show marks Leonilson’s first solo exhibition in the United States, despite having works in the collections of institutions such as New Yorks’ Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Tate Modern in London. Supported by an NEA grant, the exhibition includes drawings, paintings, and embroideries that span from 1975 until Leonilson’s death from AIDS in 1993....

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