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  • Provenance

    Studio Marconi, Milan
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    While living in Rio de Janeiro as a teenager, Dias worked as a draughtsman in an architectural firm, where he mastered technical drawing and began to understand the importance of rigorous structure. During this period, he also worked as a graphic assistant of poster and book illustrations, learning various printing techniques. He was strongly influenced by Ivan Serpa, one of the founding members of the Brazilian Concrete movement, and Serpa’s command of strong geometric shapes and emphasis on pure forms are undeniable in Dias’ work. The younger artist’s early bodies of work were closely linked to Pop and graphic arts, encompassing forms and symbols such as bones, circulatory systems, genitalia and cat paws, which came to be a sort of visual language for the artist. This period in Dias’ work reflected the Brazilian poverty and political precariousness of the time, which he subtly transformed into a kind of ritual of extraordinary sobriety, fine irony and intellectual insolence, giving way to a fundamentally different period, best exemplified in works such as The Prison, 1970. Nevertheless, the present lot must be understood within a very precise historical moment in Brazil when a military coup took place, giving rise to a climate of repression and censorship that forced Dias to leave the country in voluntary exile to live in Paris and then Milan for several years.

    During this time, Dias developed a new aesthetic in his work, utilizing austere surfaces of a strictly two dimensional rigor. The Prison, 1970, shows reticules, diagrams, and framed environments of self-referential systems. The text, “THE PRISON,” is associated with grids of empty and oppressive spaces, explicitly alluding to political oppression, which interestingly also reflects a small dose of irony and intellectual insolence, for which Dias is known. Furthermore, the association between words and image reflects Dias’ new interest in the “disconcerting conceptual resonances that emanated from the texts inscribed upon the canvases” (Daros Latinomerica AG, Antonio Dias Anywhere is my Land, 2009, p. 161). Yet, this work not only evokes themes of political oppression but also illustrates intimate impressions and ideas of the nature of art. The present lot is also imbued with Arte Povera’s idea of subverting the commercialization of art, where the asceticism not only denotes the censorship he had been exposed to in Brazil, but his minimal and somber use of materials. Ultimately, this work and other examples Dias produced during this fundamental period continue to reflect his open ended reflections on politics, sex, the self and art.


The Prison

acrylic on canvas
37 1/2 x 37 1/2 in. (95 x 95 cm)
Signed "Antonio Dias" on the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $161,000

Contact Specialist
Kaeli Deane
Head of Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1352

Latin America

New York Auction 18 November 2015 6pm