Landscape Architect of the Tropical

Landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, featured in a new exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, used the principles of cubism and abstraction to create modern landscapes using native tropical plants.
January 23, 2009, 8am PST | Tim Halbur
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"It was while studying painting in Germany during the Weimar Republic, as he would later tell it, that Burle Marx realized that the vegetation Brazilians then dismissed as scrub and brush, preferring imported pine trees and gladioli for their gardens, was truly extraordinary. Visiting the Botanical Garden in Berlin, he was startled to find many Brazilian plants in the collection and quickly came to see the untapped artistic potential in their varied shapes, sizes and hues.

"The way he synthesized art and horticulture in three-dimensional design is really quite exceptional," said Mirka Benes, a landscape historian who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. 'He truly had a painter's eye, which you could sense in his superb sense of color and form, and he had an understanding of the tenets of Modernism and Dada, having clearly known and studied the work of people like Hans Arp.'"

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Published on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 in The New York Times
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