Beatriz Milhazes was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1960. She studied public communication at Faculdades Integradas Hélio Alonso University, Rio de Janeiro (1978–81), and attended the city’s Escola de artes visuais do Parque Lage (1980–82). In paintings, prints, and architectural installations that marry highly saturated color harmonies with geometric abstraction, Milhazes demonstrates an allegiance to both European and Brazilian modernism. She cites Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, and Tarsila do Amaral as her three primary influences, and all three figures are a strong presence within her work.
In the mid-1990s, Milhazes adopted an idiosyncratic method of collaging paint that has remained her signature technique. First, she paints a vibrantly colored abstract design onto a transparent sheet of plastic. She sticks this sheet to the canvas and then peels it off, leaving the layer of paint. Milhazes repeats this process many times for each work, creating a multilayered yet flat picture that seems to collapse together several moments in time. The sequential steps of this method remain visible in the finished piece, inviting close looking and intimate connection. Milhazes has said, “I love painting, but I do not want the texture of the brushstrokes or the ‘hand’ of the painter to be visible on my canvases.”¹ Both this love of painting and the consequences of her technique are richly evident in the collaged-on designs, which retain an organic feel in their wildly colorful combination of graceful arabesques, geometric abstraction, and floral patterns.
Milhazes’s first major museum exhibition was organized in 2001 by Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, England, and traveled later that year to the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama. Her work was included in the São Paulo Biennial in 2002 and 2004, and in 2003 she represented Brazil at the Venice Biennale. In 2009, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, mounted a large-scale retrospective that included two new, site-specific installations on the building’s exterior glass walls. Milhazes has created several public art projects, including Gávea (2004) at the Selfridges department store in Manchester, Peace and Love (2005–06) at the Gloucester Road tube station in London, Maracolouco (2008) at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, and Bailinho (2008) at the Pinacoteca do estado de São Paulo. Milhazes lives and works in Rio de Janeiro.