Born in São Paulo in 1926, Amelia Toledo dropped out of high school to dedicate herself to art and in 1939 began her training with the painter Anita Malfatti (1889–1964). In the 1940s Toledo studied drawing and painting with Yoshiya Takaoka (1909–1978) and frequented the studio of Waldemar da Costa (1904–1982). Also during the 1940s Toledo worked as a technical draftswoman for the architect João Batista Vilanova Artigas (1915–1985) and designed jewelry, a practice that she has continued. A scholarship granted by the Brazilian government in 1958 allowed her to spend two years at the Central School of Arts and Crafts (now Central School of Art and Design) in London, where she took classes with the sculptor William Turnbull (1922–2012). In London between 1958 and 1960, Toledo produced her first artist's book; back in Brazil in 1960, she studied metal engraving.
Her practice is distinguished by radical experimentation in a wide variety of materials in two and three dimensions. To form polished geometric shapes she employs raw materials, such as shells, wood, and rocks, as well as sheet metal, plastic, and glass. Materiality is central to her art investigation, and her pieces often must be manipulated by the viewer to be completed, as in the 1960s series Glu-glus and Esferas hápticas (Haptic spheres). Informed by a modern geometric aesthetic, her work is nevertheless open to the ludic and the lyric.
Although she did not obtain a bachelor's degree, Toledo was accepted into the master's in fine arts program at the Universidade de Brasília, completing the course in 1964. She then began teaching at the university, commencing a period of intensive involvement with academic institutions that lasted until the mid-1970s. Toledo taught at universities in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and helped organize art courses at the Sociedade Nacional de Belas Arte. In 1965 the artist and her family went to Lisbon to escape the Brazilian military regime. In the 1970s Toledo collected natural materials and other objects found by the sea, which she used in such works as the series Frutos do mar (Fruits of the sea). Returning to painting during the 1980s, Toledo created works on jute and linen, as in the series Campos de cor (Color fields). In the next decade the artist developed a series of public works, such as the installation Caleidoscópio (Kaleidoscope, 1999) for the Brás subway station in São Paulo.
Toledo received the Cosme Velho and Petite Galerie awards (1967) at the 9th Bienal de São Paulo, the prestigious Fundação Vitae Fellowship (1990), the São Paulo State Governor Award (2010), and the 5th Marcantonio Vilaça Award for the Visual Arts (2015), for which a gallery was dedicated to her work at the accompanying exhibition, held at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Universidade de São Paulo (MAC-USP). In addition to private collections, Toledo's pieces are housed in institutions such as the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, and MAC-USP.
—Mariana von Hartenthal
Selected Solo Exhibitions
1957 Amelia Toledo, Galeria Ambiente, São Paulo
1979 Amelia Toledo: Emergências, Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro
1986 Amelia Toledo: Nos limites da cor, Museu de Arte do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil
1999 Amelia Toledo: Entre, a obra está aberta, SESI/FIESP (Serviço Social da Indústria/Federação das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo), São Paulo
2014 Amelia Toledo: Forma fluida, Paço Imperial, Rio de Janeiro
Amelia Toledo: Entrances to Open Art. São Paulo: SESI, 1999.
Amélia Toledo: Esculturas. Rio de Janeiro: Galeria Bonino, 1969.
Farias, Agnaldo. Amélia Toledo: As naturezas do artifício. São Paulo: W11, 2004.
Moraes, Angélica de. Pintura reencarnada. São Paulo: Paço das Artes, 2005.
Neves, Galciani. "As escrituras do corpo e Amelia Toledo: Quando o gesto se torna livro." Tessituras e Criação, no. 2 (December 2011): 104–12.