Ivan Serpa - Latin America New York Thursday, November 21, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Gustavo Rebello Arte, Rio de Janeiro
    Galeria Pilar, São Paulo
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    The key problem of Concrete art does not just involve color, but rather its infinite modulations.
    Ivan Serpa

    A pioneer of the Concrete Art movement in Brazil, Ivan Serpa has played a central role in the Brazilian art scene since the early 1950s. Although his career ended abruptly in the early 1970s as a result of his premature death at the age of 50, Serpa’s impact as both a trailblazing artist and magnetic teacher at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro has proven to be profoundly important and long-lasting. As one of the leaders of the Grupo Frente, Serpa was greatly influential in the development of a vital generation of Brazilian artists that included Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape and Hélio Oiticica, among others. In the 1960s, Serpa had a similar influence on increasingly recognized artists such as Waltercio Caldas, Raymundo Colares and Antonio Manuel. It is therefore unsurprising that Serpa’s artworks have entered the prestigious collections of major museums, such as the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

    Composed through the repetition of crisply delineated geometric bands and shapes, the present lot can be understood as a reinterpretation of the rationalist visual vocabulary of Concrete Art. The work’s deductive structure—visible in the painting’s emphatic play with both its center and frame— strengthens the work’s ties to the modernist abstract experiments of the Concrete artists of the 1950s. The painting builds on the Concrete aesthetic by suffusing it with organic and sensual qualities that link it to the theories of Neo-Concrete Art and Tropicália, movements that changed the aesthetic parameters of Brazilian art by incorporating innovative visual language that invites the viewer to actively engage with the work.

    Created as part of Serpa’s Mangueira series, Untitled displays a color palette associated with the Mangueira samba school of Rio de Janeiro. The present lot’s rhythmic alternations of bright green, potent black, and tranquil white also evoke the enthralling cadence of samba music. Serie Amazonica, another series of paintings produced by Serpa during the 1960s, similarly alludes to an inherent “Brazilianness” through both its name and its vivacious colors, which conjure the paradisiacal landscape of Serpa’s predominantly tropical homeland. Serpa’s artistic affirmation of all things Brazilian can be interpreted as the artist’s riposte to Pop Art during a time in which Brazil was gradually inundated with visual references to a foreign consumerist society.

    Yet Untitled also functions outside the realm of Serpa’s national pride. The present lot’s expanding and oscillating undulated strips of color reveal the work’s dialogue with the great formal exercises of German artist Joseph Albers (another artist who played an important role as an art educator) and the optical experimentation of British Op Art. In Serpa’s vision, as in the work of those he influenced, geometry is articulate, relatable and engaging. Consequently, Untitled is as much a celebration of Brazil’s cultural specificity as it is a fresh voice in a transnational conversation about innovative currents of abstraction within the greater context of modern art.



Untitled (from Serie Mangueira)

oil on canvas
20 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. (52 x 52 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated "Ivan Serpa 70 Serie Mangueira" on the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Heraldo Cardoso Serpa.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
+ 1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York 21 November 2013 4pm