In 1990, just three years before he died, the Brazilian artist José Leonilson began recording an audio diary on cassette tapes. In a melancholic tone, he reflected on the banalities of life, his anxieties about coming out to his family, and the haunting images of his dreams. Over the course of recording these tapes, Leonilson would discover he was HIV positive, lending this daily exercise a new and troubling meaning.
While a beloved artist in his home country, Leonilson is lesser known in the US, where he is having his first solo exhibition at the Americas Society. There you can see 50 of his paintings, drawings, and embroideries, which often incorporate language that offers glimpses of his personal thoughts (“empty man/lone/ready”).
To coincide with the exhibition, the Americas Society and Cinema Tropical have collaborated with the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at the New School to screen the 2015 film A Paixão de JL, which revolves around Leonilson’s tape recordings. The film was directed by Carlos Nader, a friend of Leonilson’s, who considers the project as a kind of “posthumous partnership.”
This poetic and moving portrait is a unique introduction to the Americas Society exhibition, which moves chronologically backwards from the year Leonilson died.
When: Thursday, October 19, 7pm
Where: The New School (66 5th Avenue, Kellen Auditorium, Room N101, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Greenwich Village, Manhattan)
More info here.