In the author’s opinion, however, Leontina’s paintings are not “an enigma table” but a situation in which chromatic and formal lines and enigmas all seem to mutually “encode and decipher each other.” Coming from a background in figurative expression, we now see her here, at the Galeria das Folhas, immersed in solitary communication with abstract symbolic elements. The critic’s observation—or the artist’s undeniable contribution—is perhaps inspired by a pictorial atmosphere; an environment that, in luminous and spatial terms, seeks to reinvigorate abstract art in the midst of everyday objects.
A group show at the Galería de Arte das Folhas in November 1959 with works by Giselda Leirner, Maria Leontina, Tomie Ohtake, Hércules Barsotti, and Willys de Castro.
Maria Leontina (Mendes de Almeida Franco, b. 1917; d. 1984) started taking drawing lessons from Antônio Covello in 1938, and took painting lessons from Waldemar da Costa in the 1940s, developing a preference for the realist style taught by Lasar Segall at the FAP (Familia de Artistas Paulistas). She studied museology. By the late 1940s, thanks to Flávio de Carvalho and Iberê Camargo, she had become involved in the Brazilian Expressionist movement. She married the painter Milton Dacosta in 1949. Leontina was an introspective painter who worked on thematic series; Dacosta introduced her to Constructive art. She had her first solo show at the Galeria Domus in 1950; her work was exhibited at the XXV Biennale di Venezia during that same year. She taught painting classes to inmates at the Hospital de Juqueri, a psychiatric institution. She and Dacosta went to Europe in 1952 on a grant from the French government and showed their work at the Salon de Mai. Leontina studied under Friedlaender in Paris (1954). In 1960, the Guggenheim Foundation awarded her the Prêmio Nacional, at a time when her painting showed greater freedom and lyricism. Toward the end of her life, the IAB-RJ (Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro) organized a retrospective of her work (1982). One of the important exhibitions that included her work was Modernidade: Art Brésilien du 20e. siècle at the MAM (Paris, 1987), which traveled to the MAM in São Paulo the following year.
The critic and poet (José Ribamar) Ferreira Gullar (b. 1930; d. 2017), one of the Grupo Frente’s key theorists, published his first articles in the Sunday supplement of the Jornal do Brasil in 1955. He took part in the Exposição Nacional de Arte (1090217), at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo in 1956 and at the MES (Ministério da Educação e Saúde, the Ministry of Education and Health which organized the Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna) in 1957. In response to the 1a Exposição neoconcreta in Rio de Janeiro in 1959, he wrote the"Manifiesto Neoconcreto"(1110328), which was also published in the Sunday supplement of the Jornal do Brasil. That same year he wrote “Teoria do Não-Objeto” (Theory of the Non-Object) (1091374), which was published in the same newspaper. From March 1959 to October 1960, Gullar published a number of theoretical articles: “Etapas da Arte Contemporânea” (1090830), which were later included in the book Ferreira Gullar: Etapas da arte contemporânea—do cubismo à arte neoconcreta (1998) (Ferreira Gullar: Stages of Contemporary Art—from Cubism to Neo-Concrete Art).