The Image

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Private Collection, Italy

  • Literature

    A. Dias, E. L. Francalanci, G. Schönenberger and T. Trini, Antonio Dias: Una collezione 1968-1976, Marconi: Milan, 1995, p. 71 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay


    Throughout the past 40 years Antonio Dias has produced a significant body of work, celebrated for its courageous aesthetic experimentation and sophisticated intellectual engagement. Due to his wide-ranging influences and global appeal, it is impossible to pin him down to a particular style or artistic movement. His aesthetic approaches to painting have constantly changed throughout the years, as he incorporated different methods and experiences into his work. Although he has spent much of his life outside of Brazil and has ingrained himself into the European contemporary art scene, his stature as one of the seminal figures of Brazilian contemporary art is unquestionable. In the present lot, The Image, Dias depicts an elegant monochromatic unit while integrating visual nuances, thereby disrupting the uniform color palette. He conceptualizes a personal impression resulting in a directional statement, allowing the work to remain in a state of enigmatic ambiguity.

    Since childhood, art has been a determining force in Dias’ life. His paternal grandfather taught him the basic principles of drawing, instilling in him the profound understanding of proportion and color that has since informed his work. As a young teenager, he was inspired by popular comic strips in Brazilian newspapers and magazines, such as Jerônimo, o Herói do Sertão by Edmundo Rodrigues and the globally recognized comic book worlds of Hugo Pratt and Flavio Colin. He soon began to produce his own comic strips, which allowed him to explore the use of text and language as powerful aesthetic tools. The imprint of these early formative years is wondrously visible throughout Dias’ career.

    In 1957, Dias moved to Rio de Janeiro to live with his mother. He worked as a draftsman for an architectural firm, where he further developed his command of line and proportion. He then became a graphic assistant for poster design and book illustration at the Ministry of Health, where he learned various printing techniques. At the age of sixteen, Dias attended a woodcut course given by the renowned engraver Oswaldo Goeldi at the National School of Fine Arts. Aside from that course, his involvement with the artistic avant-garde centered on Ivan Serpa and Aluisio Carvão, both of whom were professors at the art school of the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. This exposure played a formative role in Dias’ development as an artist. Ivan Serpa was one of the key players in the Brazilian Concrete movement, and as the present lot exemplifies, Serpa’s use of pure form and geometry as expressive mechanisms was hugely influential in Dias’ work.

    By his early twenties, Dias had become one of the most active proponents of Brazil’s artistic avant-garde. His first solo exhibition at Galeria Sobradinho in 1962 consisted of drawings and paintings he had produced since 1960, which incorporated formal and symbolic elements from indigenous civilizations and Brazilian popular culture. He also became deeply interested in the Brazilian Neo-Concrete movement, which embraced art’s subjective qualities and focused on fostering the creative relationship between the artist, the work, and the viewer. Like his predecessor Hélio Oiticica and his contemporary Cildo Meireles, Dias was very interested in exploring art’s manifold roles in society. As a result, much of Dias’ work attempts to draw his viewers within the picture plane, and actively engages them in the process of signification.

    Towards the end of the 1960s, Dias distanced himself from the exuberant figuration that characterized his earlier works, which echoed the influence of Pop and the graphic arts. In 1966, Dias traveled to Paris after receiving a grant from the French government. What was originally planned as a six month stay became a protracted period of voluntary exile, which was partially a result of the oppressive political reality in Brazil. It is during this time that he develops the aesthetic approach evidenced by the present lot, which reflects elements of concrete Poetry, Neo-Concretism, and Conceptual Art without abandoning his ethical and political concerns. During this time, Dias’ body of work acquired a strict two-dimensional rigor, showcasing diagrams and environments through words and signs. He employed language as a ready-made, laconically moving simple texts and catchphrases across his surfaces. Drawn from advertising jargon and the political mood of the period, his paintings became enigmatic expressions that offered valuable insight into his artistic and political context. Symbols like the X infer centeredness, calling for the viewers’ attention. These elements seem to refer to the Brazilian political reality at the time, yet nothing in Dias’ art is one-dimensional. He uses the symbol to refer to a dictatorial system that expected artists to obey its mandates, and also to the concept of the modernist grid that revolutionized art and enabled it to free itself from the confines of pictorial realism. Dias’ art is at once a denunciation, a celebration, and an intellectual debate. He reveals the strength of a new international order in art and culture.

    The present lot is a strong statement in favor of the intrinsic importance of art. The Image becomes an entity unto itself, independently capable of changing the world outside of it. This highlights an essential characteristic of Dias’ work as a whole: although many of his works, at first glance, may seem minimalistic and formalist, there are multiple layers of meaning beneath the surface. Disguised amidst the seemingly straightforward monochromatic surface, the present lot is rich in intricate allusions and personal expressions that Dias eloquently shares with his audience. We are drawn into the silver expanse as we actively search for meaning and resolution.

10

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ITALIAN COLLECTION

The Image

1970
acrylic on canvas
47 1/4 x 47 1/4 in. (120 x 120 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated "Antonio Dias 'The Image' 1970" on the reverse.

Estimate
$350,000 - 550,000 

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
lgonzalez@phillips.com
+1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York Auction 29 May 2014 4pm