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José Leonilson

October 23, 2017

As evidenced by this modest but thorough roundup of works by the Brazilian artist, made between the late eighties and 1993, when he died, of complications from AIDS, at the age of thirty-six, Leonilson’s art was already charged with intense emotion when he tested positive for the H.I.V. virus, in 1991. In “Leo Can’t Change the World,” made in 1989, a disembodied maroon heart floats above a hazy field of gold on an unstretched canvas, which is painted blood red. After his diagnosis, Leonilson began incorporating embroidery and other embellishments to create smaller works, in which the vulnerability expressed in his paintings becomes intensified....

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