Milhazes kaleidoscopes the grid, geometry, Carnaval, textile design, folk art and botany into a throbbing samba of up-against-the-picture-plane abstraction. Her paintings are a non-pharmacological high. They’re big, joyous, warm, physically expressive, wilfully chromatic, unabashedly beautiful. The work is so richly detailed that every visual toke—er, detail—offers something big and fabulous; even her paintings have paintings!
Milhazes: Sinfonia Nordestina, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 96 7/8 x 144 7/8 inches
Milhazes: Popeye, 2008 acrylic on canvas, 78 3/8 x 54 3/4 inches
Milhazes: Mulatinho, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 97 5/6 x 97 5/8
Two (very different) details below
Milhazes: Carambola, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 54 7/8 a 50 5/8
Against this extravagantly saturated tropicalismo it’s probably unfair to make comparisons, but I found Tomma Abts’s paintings stingy and tight, like the kid in school who encircles his paper with his left arm to make sure no one can catch a glimpse of what he’s writing. I liked her recent show at the New Museum well enough, and I can appreciate the intellectual rigor of the work here, but in this show her coolness struck me as cold and, well,withholding. The tonal hues seemed too gray, the geometry too quirky, too labored. There are layers and layers of paintings under the surface—Abts’ process is to let the work grow intuitively from this mulch, so to speak—but I left feeling that while she might have planted plum tomatoes, she ended up with radishes.
Abts: Isko, 2008, oil and acrylic on canvas, 19 x 15 inches
Detail below, hinting at the layers of painting underneath the surface