Milhazes and Apfelbaum may limit their work to the fundamentals—shape, color, and material—but their messages are just as forceful. When Milhazes was growing up in Brazil in the 1960s, the country was in the early years of an authoritarian military dictatorship and the latter years of the powerful
movement, which centered on themes of scientific objectivity and technology. Milhazes’s work rejects the imposing masculinity associated with these concepts; in her studio, which is located next to a botanical garden, she makes paintings and prints, like Havai (Hawaii)
(2003), which feature brightly colored floral imagery inspired by nature, 19th-century embroidery, and carnival costumes. Still, the geometric framework of the concrete artists is concealed within the work; Roberta Smith of the New York Times
times has written
that Milhazes’s patterns “have the precision of gears and wheels.” Apfelbaum makes subversive use of geometry, too. Straying from her
forebears with respect to form, she rejects what she terms the “big, macho structure” of the canvas altogether. She is known for assembling pieces of dyed fabric into abstract shapes on the floor, drawing on textiles—traditional women’s work—even in her prints.