(New York, USA)
Mantiqueira is a mountain range in Southern Brazil that forms a natural border separating Minas Gerais from the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Its name derives from the indigenous Tupi language and translates to “mountains that cry,” a personification of the many rivers that pool and streak across the region’s face. In her painting of the same name, Patricia Leite foregoes any easy or obvious likeness to depict the landscape as a kind of wounded tone poem. Rather than carving out craggy peaks and plummeting valleys, Leite renders Mantiqueira (2022) as a geographic mass of immovable blue that progressively darkens from pale to bruised. Sandwiched between a saturated base of rushing water and a calm but mournful belt of open sky, the ridges of Mantiqueira’s cliffside form an imperfect line on the horizon that transforms Leite’s field of color into a distinct and recognizable landmass.
This is one of the paintings presented at “Mantiqueira”, her solo show at Mendes Wood DM in New York, USA, from July 14th to August 12th, 2022.
Without immediately knowing that Mantiqueira (2022) depicts a mountain range, you’d be forgiven for assuming it was pure abstraction; when I first saw it, it gave me the kind of holy, loaded pause I usually reserve for Mark Rothko. Images on Google Maps confirm that on an overcast day even the brightest hills in the area can take on a subtle bluish hue, but this literal-mindedness can’t account for the region’s physical geography, which is as jagged and skyscraping as Leite’s painting is segmented and smooth. This is the challenge and reward of Leite’s art, to square the hard facts of place with the ample room for interpretation that she generously reserves for her audience. Considering the work of translators, the critic Judith Thurman wrote a “literal transcription [never] produce[s] the most desirable result: it refuses the risks—the deep adventure—of the poetry.” In the same spirit, Leite ushers her viewer into weirder territory than the physical world immediately before them, steeping her work in a profound sense of place while insisting on an elusive, poetic beauty just beyond it.
“Mantiqueira”, with Patricia Leite
From July 14th to August 12th, 2022