Two years ago, Jens Hoffmann, the deputy director of the Jewish Museum, invited Brazilian multimedia artist Beatriz Milhazes to create a project for the institution’s lobby that would coincide (and travel with) its just-opened retrospective on the iconic Brazilian modernist landscape architect Robert Burle Marx.
‘At first I had an idea to use the ceiling as a drawing, but it would be too difficult for it to travel because it would be so site-specific,’ says Milhazes of her contribution to the museum's 'Using Walls, Floors, and Ceilings' series. Instead, she decided to dip into her own archives and reconfigure a set of chandelier mobiles made from fabric flowers, plastic Carnival beads and trinkets. She had originally conceived an iteration of the piece in 2004 for a production of her sister’s dance company (and later resurrected another version for the 2008 Prospect.1 Biennial in New Orleans). ‘It became a kind of concept that takes the perspective of the space where it’s installed.’
For the Jewish Museum installation, titled Gamboa II, Milhazes had to contend with ‘a very intense lobby that’s quite busy visually’, so she decided to dialogue with the decorative art elements in the ceiling to develop three different mobiles that hang just above visitors’ heads.
‘Usually they drop to the floor and the public walks around them,’ says Milhazes of the vine-like strands. The overhead installation allowed for her materials to showcase their shiny, synthetic pop sensibilities and respond to, but not detract from, Burle Marx’s works on display.
‘Burle Marx has always been a reference to my paintings, especially his landscape drawings and the shapes of his gardens, but the most important aspect is that they are both visceral,’ says Milhazes. ‘Visually you will connect immediately. All his work is based on what he was developing in Rio. These pieces are completely based on the stuff you find in Carnival, the hanging vine plants in his drawings, the drawings he did for Carnival that are in the show. The biggest connection is that we have this basis of inspiration and sculptural language.’