LEONILSON: THE NATURE OF AFFECTION
Leonilson is an artist of our time. Taking place three decades after his premature death, on May 28, 1993, this exhibition is a reminder of his legacy, which places him among the most important Brazilian artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. He still exerts a strong influence on new generations, moving the audiences to whom his referential way of being and artistic work, made up of drawings, paintings, embroideries, engravings, sculptural objects and writings, express his political way of unseeing this world of injustices and contradictions. In other words, to see the outside of normality, watching sensible equivalences in the natural phenomena and features that give them form and occur on the thin skin that covers the world.
Leonilson produced delicate drawings and made frequent use of text and word inscriptions, turning them into real visual poetry. They are also conversations of someone who knew he transcended the world. In the small figures that appear in his work from the late 1970s, we can see that the artist preserves the qualities of strokes that will continue in his drawings until the early 1990s, the final period of his career, which displays graphic coherence and also, by means of these pure figures with simple, unfinished lines, true and eloquent narratives. They are little pictures of men and natural phenomena and features reduced to the barest minimum, but still full of strong expression, representing humanity in its essence.
In the drawings from the early 1980s, we can see the way he sees people’s inner worlds. Scenes from everyday life displaying friends in a state of contemplation, which correlates with the core of the exhibition On friendships. Later on, we see the artist at his most autobiographical moment, when he produced a series of drawings that explores themes such as courage, loneliness, anguish, fears, protection, transcendence and death – expressed in the shapes of mountains, volcanoes, hurricanes, abysses, rivers, whitewaters and bottles that allude to the human body and house volcanoes in their symbolic strength and intensity.
These drawings show the emotional charge present throughout his work. His way of telling and expressing his feelings is a political act and something essential for his survival. In a nutshell: his work is about an intense life.