Adriana Varejão - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, June 24, 2021 | Phillips

  • Since the 1980s, Adriana Varejão has implemented powerful visual metaphors to rigorously explore themes of colonization, the impact of the Baroque movement and the hybrid cultural past of her native country of Brazil. With a concurrent, solo exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York ending on June 26th, Varejão’s work will also be the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo next year.


    “Extirpation of Evil”


    Extirpação do mal por punção is one of four paintings from Varejão’s series Extirpation of Evil which the artist presented at the 22nd São Paulo Biennial in 1994. Each work in the series is titled with a respective medicinal procedure used to eliminate evil: “by overdose,” “by punction” (as in the present work), “by revulsion” and “by incision.” The series can be seen as the artist’s attempt to re-evaluate the very structure and meaning of form and painting. The works in the series take on a sculptural quality in various ways: medical tubes erupt from the surface into intravenous drips, cupping glasses and needles perforate the canvas, and in the final work, the fleshy surface overflows from the canvas onto an adjacent hospital stretcher. In the present work, Varejão references Eastern influences through the inclusion of Chinese acupuncture needles, highlighting the artist’s continued exploration into the violence of colonialism. Metaphorically opening the wounds imposed by history, the needles stand out from the surface, dispersed across the composition to form three vertical figures. Through this three-dimensional element, Varejão marks her subject’s skin with violence akin to that committed against Brazil’s aboriginal people.


    Adriana Varejão, Extirpação do mal por punção (detail), 1994.

    Use of the Baroque


    The painted figures in the lower right exemplify Varejão’s use of lushly Baroque stylizations. The figures both mingle with and are demarcated by the collaged acupuncture needles, encouraging a meditation on the legacy of cultural exchange. Varejão first began to experiment with oil paint in 1986, reimagining the opulent Baroque frescoes and religious relics of eighteenth-century churches in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Throughout her work, Varejão employs the Baroque tactics of imitation, juxtaposition, and parody to reflect on the mythical diversity of Brazilian identity and the complex social, cultural, and aesthetic interactions that produce it.

    "The Baroque always connects two extremes, like light and shadow, in one body, one painting. History outside against a wild body inside, cultured and uncultured, cooked and uncooked, greed and expressionism, rationalism and irrationality, cold and hot."
    —Adriana Varejão

    A work both sculptural and painterly, exposing the multivalent nature of memory and representation, Extirpação do mal por punção is an evocative invitation to contemplate the historical intricacies and the contemporary significance of Brazil’s colonial past. 

    • Provenance

      Galeria Thomas Cohn, São Paulo
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      22nd Bienal Internacional de São Paulo, October 12–December 11, 1994
      São Paulo, Galeria Camargo Vilaça, Adriana Varejão: Pintura/Sutura, September 1996, p. 27 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Louise Neri, Adriana Varejao, Brazil, 2001, no. 46, n.p. (installation view illustrated)
      Adriana Varejão, Adriana Varejão: entre carnes e mares, Rio de Janeiro, 2009, p. 104

    • Artist Biography

      Adriana Varejão

      Brazilian • 1964

      The diverse work of Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão examines such themes as anthropology and miscegenation in contemporary Brazilian society. Born in 1964 in Rio de Janeiro, Varejão possesses an oeuvre spanning painting, sculpture, works on paper, installation and photography.

      A common motif in Varejão's oeuvre is that of the Azulejo, a traditional Portuguese ceramic tile. In her most famous series, Jerked-beef ruin (2000-'04), Varejão ruptures the ceramic tiles violently exposing a flesh-like interior. The stark contrast between the aesthetically pleasing blue geometric tiles and the visceral interior provides commentary on modern forms of colonization in contemporary Brazilian society.

      View More Works


Extirpação do mal por punção

signed, titled, inscribed and dated ""Extirpação do Mal por punção brazil _ 1994 A. Varejão." on the reverse
oil and acupuncture needles on canvas
78 7/8 x 94 1/2 in. (200.3 x 240 cm)
Executed in 1994.

Full Cataloguing

$100,000 - 150,000 

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021