Shifting Patterns: The Geometric Precision of Judith Lauand’s Abstract Paintings

Move over, Theo van Doesburg, São Paulo native Judith Lauand—known as the “Dama do concretismo,” or “First Lady of Concretism”—and her mathematical paintings take geometric abstraction to a whole new level. Lauand’s early works, created during the 1950s, serve as proof that she was ahead of her time. Rather than following the course of her European counterparts and the Abstract Expressionists, she began creating paintings that almost seem machine-like, distilled to the simplest elements of painting, which in the context of the present resemble an early form of computer-generated art.

Lauand once said of her work: “I base myself on elements inherent to painting itself: form, space, color and movement. I seek to objectify the plastic problem as much as I can. I love synthesis, precision, exact thinking.” Paintings like Sem Título (Untitled) (1974) and Concreto Amado (Beloved Concrete) (1961) are reminiscent of pixels—each small square looks as though it might be a part of a pattern and fit into a larger picture, though the larger picture is still a mystery that we cannot decode. Concreto 120, Acervo 190 (1958) could almost be a still from a rendering program—a perfectly modeled graph. Its measured and exact red and green lines create an optical illusion, almost as if the white lines they connect to are bending out of the painting.

Often her geometric forms are developed from a grid, and then break apart from it, even while keeping it mathematical precision. Concreto 87, Acervo 184 (1957) features a series of triangles, each slowly rotating at an angle until they are only lines. Eventually, the pattern begins to take shape again, but not before it’s been revised. Other works, such as Sem Título (Untitled) (1977) and Sem Título (Untitled) (2007) are less about the grid, and more about an optical color contrast. Through these carefully realized bands of flat color that overlap and intersect, she develops dynamic compositions suggesting movement and dimension. 

—Haniya Rae

Judith Lauand: Brazilian Modernist, 1950s-2000s” is on view at Driscoll Babcock Galleries, New York, Oct. 23—Dec. 20, 2014. 

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