Leda Catunda Translates the Color and Rhythm of Brazilian Nightlife to Paper

The subject: Leda Catunda, the Brazilian artist who made a name for herself in 1980s São Paulo with her innovative blend of painting, sculpture, and collage. The occasion: an exhibition on view now in her hometown, including prints from Catunda’s 2014 series “Projeto Night Club” published by Paragon.

In many respects, the artist and the publisher are an ideal match. For nearly 30 years, London-based Paragon has been inviting established artists to create portfolios of prints. And Catunda, though best known for her abstract and boldly hued wall works and use of textiles, has a penchant for paper. “It is important for the artist to be able to think about his/her work, which is very lonely,” Catunda has said, referring, in part, to the sketches that formed the basis for her completed works. “I like to call them ‘secret papers,’” she added, “the ones that nobody sees.”

The works published with Paragon are the opposite of secrets, and it’s a fact you’ll be glad of as soon as you lay eyes on Catunda’s cheerful yet curious compositions. On first look, due to the palette built largely around straightforward reds, yellows, and blues, these works might seem simplistic. The artist wouldn’t argue with that. “My choice of colour is always very simple, very direct,” Catunda has noted. “Therefore, it bears a strong affinity with popular art. Primary colours, without much elaboration. I’m not interested in the idea of good painting. It is useless as far as my work is concerned.”

It’s the motions of the forms, not the colors, that make Catunda’s work so dynamic. And the titles give it all away. The series is called “Projeto Night Club” (2014) in homage to the inspiration the artist found in the lively nightclub scene in her native São Paulo. Some of the pieces, like Lovers from Projeto Night Club (2014) refer to more concrete elements of that particular environment, while others, like Circles from Projeto Night Club (2014) or Anemona from Projeto Night Club (2014), do not. That’s where the artist’s tendency toward abstraction factors in: the works aren’t depictions of late-night locales; they reflect the vitality Catunda has observed there.

Which is why it’s especially fitting that Catunda’s work is currently on display at Galeria Fortes Vilaça in São Paulo. And maybe—quite likely—some Brazilian viewers won’t need to read the titles to recognize the source of the colorful energy Catunda expresses in these works.

—Bridget Gleeson

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