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Mira Schendel

Brazilian  •  1919-1988

Biography

Born in Zurich and of Jewish heritage, Mira Schendel escaped Switzerland during World War II to settle in Sarajevo and Rome, finally immigrating to Brazil in 1953. In the 1960s, she began to produce her iconic monotipas, delicate drawings on luminescent rice paper. She rejected the notion of painting as a primary medium, abandoning the genre in the 1970s for almost a decade. Schendel worked mostly with paper and objects made of unusual materials such as Plexiglas, fabrics and aqueous inks.

Recurring themes in her work include letters, geometric figures and phrases reflecting a radical lexicon, often juxtaposing elements from two languages (visual and numerical). Many of her works hover in the space between drawing and writing, creating a certain visual poetry that is completely her own. Schendel's works go beyond the materiality of making art and allow viewers to understand the relationship between language, time and human thought processes.

Insights

  • Mario Schenberg gave Schendel some rice paper as a gift, and she began using this paper to make the monotypes for which she is now well-known. She created nearly all 2,000 of these in less than a year.

  • She also used rice paper to produce one of her most important series within her oeuvre, Droguinhas — literally "little drugs". They are three-dimensional works made of knotted rice paper she intertwined by hand, emulating the act of weaving.

  • Schendel worked with inexpensive materials, as she was too poor to buy proper paints and thus used cheap combinations cut with talc and brick dust. Her kitchen table was used as a studio.

"My concern is with capturing the transfer of the instant living experience, full of empirical vigor, onto the symbol imbued with memorability and relative eternity."

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