Installation view of “joints, voids and gaps” at MUDAM, Luxembourg, 2020–21. Photo: Nick Ash, Courtesy the artist and the galleries Air de Paris, Paris, and kurimanzutto, Mexico City, New York

The Measure of Modernism: A Conversation with Leonor Antunes

Leonor Antunes engages the history of 20th-century art, architecture, and design in large-scale, abstract installations that fuse physical, measurable experience with the effects of memory and time. Inspired by Modernist outliers (from Carlo Scarpa, Anni Albers, and Lenore Tawney to Lina Bo Bardi and Egle Trincanato), Antunes follows extensive research into their work with acts of extraction and artistic translation. Rescaled, recombined, and reinterpreted, architectural details, furnishings, and the patterns of prints and fabrics become the formal building blocks of her sculptures. With a deep sensitivity and layered richness, she embraces vernacular craft traditions from around the world, employing materials such as rope, leather, cork, wood, brass, rubber, and looms of handwoven cotton threads to challenge mainstream narratives with what she calls “transversal” histories. Her meticulously handcrafted objects, which find sculptural form as vertical or horizontal demarcations in space or as woven, transparent nets and grids, deliberately blur the line between past and present, objective and subjective experience, real and imaginative space.

Robert Preece: Your work frequently refers to under-recognized female Modernist artists, designers, and architects. What keeps you coming back to this?
Leonor Antunes: My vocabulary is cumulative and extensive, searching for an engagement connected to a specific environment, context, or history that the work absorbs. I feel that my role as an artist is also to talk about the relevance of other people’s work . . .

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