Luiz Zerbini - Latin America New York Tuesday, May 26, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galeria Camargo Vilaça, São Paulo
    Collection of Bernardo Paz, Brumadinho
    Private Collection, São Paulo

  • Catalogue Essay

    Heir to the Brazilian legacy of mid-century abstraction and conceptualism, Luiz Zerbini is part of the younger generation of artists who took on the genre of painting with a fresh vision in the 1980s. Alongside Beatriz Milhazes, Daniel Senise and Adriana Varejão, among others, Zerbini questioned the role of painting— namely, figurative painting— in contemporary art history, exploring its capabilities and limitations in communicating meaning through representation. Over the last four decades, he has become known for his lush color palettes and tropical settings imbued with clever references to history and abstraction. He frequently depicts autobiographical subjects, presented as expansive views and close-ups of details from his daily life, selected for their poetic and visually transformative qualities.

    Zerbini created the present lot, Corcovado, 1989, during a critical early period in his career when he was living in Rio de Janeiro with his then-wife Regina Casé, who was pregnant with their daughter. Ms. Casé, a well-known Brazilian actress, is depicted in the painting with her arms folded above her head, looking straight out to the viewer. She is posing on the couple’s terrace in Rio de Janeiro, overlooking the iconic Corcovado Mountain that gives the painting its name. The work is notable for its serene yet vibrant theatricality, featuring a rich landscape awash with Matisse-like patterning and figuration, foreshadowing the elaborate detail and graphic intricacy that Zerbini’s oeuvre would become famous for in later years.

    What may at first glance look like an idealized scene of domestic bliss is also a study on how the artist can harness the resources of painting to turn his viewers into active participants. Zerbini’s use of perspective and foreshortening establishes the viewer firmly at the center of the composition. The floor tiles and angled sofa offer a sense of structure, and the sprawling background effectively communicates a liberating feeling of open space— a remarkable feat in such a densely detailed setting. When standing in front of the picture, the viewer feels anchored in space, mirrored by the frontal figure of Ms. Casé. It suggests that the composition is there for the viewer’s sake, and it requires active engagement in order to fulfill the artist’s purpose.

    Corcovado is a key work with which to examine Zerbini’s artistic influences and interests. Like his Neo-Concrete forebears, he is interested in exploring the role of the viewer in the making and experiencing of art. His investigation, however, is concentrated in painting, a genre that had lost some of its protagonism in Latin America after the rise of conceptualism in the 1970s. He was influenced by international contemporary artists such as Martin Kippenberger, whose liberal use of color and often-exaggerated figuration gave a new generation of artists the visual language necessary to develop a fresh approach to an age-old medium. Zerbini’s importance as an artist lies in his ability to create epic paintings that are at once monumental and deeply personal, relying on a Neo-Concrete sensibility to appeal to the individual viewer through the sensorial.



acrylic on canvas
68 1/2 x 103 7/8 in. (174 x 264 cm)
Signed and dated "Zerbini 1989" on the reverse.

$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $197,000

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

Latin America

New York 26 May 2015 4pm