Published: July 25, 2000
NEW YORK CITY – Through September 16, the AXA Gallery – formerly the Equitable Gallery – will present the first exhibition ever mounted in the United States devoted exclusively to the work of Portuguese artist Amadeo de Souza Cardoso (1887-1918).
A pioneer of modernism and a national cultural hero in Portugal, Souza Cardoso experimented with major avant-garde innovations, developing a style that combined exuberant and fanciful color with the newly invented forms of futurism. This exhibition – featuring 31 paintings, 19 works on paper, and archival materials – spans his entire career.
“At the Edge: A Portuguese Futurist – Amadeo de Souza Cardoso” is presented by the Corcoran Gallery of Art with the Portuguese Ministry of Culture in Lisbon and the Embassy of Portugal in Washington. The exhibition was organized by the Office of International Relations, Ministry of Culture, Portugal, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Amadeo de Souza Cardoso immersed himself in the bohemian culture of Paris, where he settled as a student in 1906, befriending Amadeo Modigliani, Juan Gris, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Diego Rivera, and Constantin Brancusi. In the company of these artists, Souza Cardoso experimented with the dynamism of futurism as well as cubism, often using more than one point of view in a single painting. He originated a style characterized by elements of impressionism, cubism, futurism, and abstraction – or, in the artist’s words, “A little bit of everything.”
Using rhythmic, circular forms of floating color, Souza Cardoso also painted some of the earliest completely nonrepresentational pictures ever created.
“With breathtaking facility, Souza Cardoso worked through the major avant-garde trends of his day and came up with an original modernist style characterized by wonderful color, inventive subject matter, and innovative form,” says Dr Jack Cowart, one of the curators of the exhibition.
Throughout his career, Souza Cardoso maintained a strong connection to his native Portugal while incorporating into his art modernist approaches developing in Europe, especially Paris. The exhibition includes paintings such as “Montanhas,” in which he painted the dramatic mountainous landscapes of Marao, his native region, as well as “Galgos,” which features greyhounds, the sleek dogs that are used for hunting throughout Portugal.
Also included are extraordinary abstract portraits of his friends in Paris as well as complex, vibrant still lifes that combine elements of Portuguese folk art with symbols of the Paris metropolis.
Amadeo de Souza Cardoso was born on November 14, 1887, in Manhufe, a country village in northern Portugal. In 1905, he traveled to Lisbon to study architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts. On his 19th birthday, Souza Cardoso left Lisbon for Paris, where he quickly abandoned his architectural studies to become a painter. While in Paris, Souza Cardoso participated in several important exhibitions, including the Salon des Independants of 1911 and 1912 and the Salon d’Automne of 1912. He also exhibited works at the Herbstsalon in Berlin and the Salon in London.
In 1913, American art impresario Walter Pach invited Souza Cardos to present eight works at the most important exhibition of avant-garde art in America, the historic International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as the Armory Show. The young Portuguese painter was one of the surprise hits of the show. Of the eight works he sent, seven sold, three of which are presented in this exhibition.
Souza Cardoso had left Paris to visit his family in Portugal, as he did every summer, when the First World War broke out. Stranded in Manhufe by the war, he made plans to exhibit again in the United States while he continued to paint, creating some of his most complex and original works. Two weeks before the armistice and shortly before his 31st birthday, he died in the worldwide influenza epidemic.
According to Cowart, “He was steadily gaining momentum with his adventurous work and had already made major contributions to modern art when he died.”
“At the Edge: A Portuguese Futurist – Amadeo de Souza Cardoso” is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, the only monograph in English of the artist. It features essays by noted Portuguese experts, including Professor Jose-Augusto Franca of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, as well as American scholars Kenneth Silver of New York University, Rosemary O’Neill of the Parsons School of Design, and Laura Coyle, assistant curator at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
The AXA Gallery is in the atrium lobby of Equitable Tower, 787 Seventh Avenue at 51st Street in New York City. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 11 am to 6 pm, and Saturday, noon to 5 pm. Admission is free. For information, 212/554-1704.
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