Mira Schendel - Latin America New York Tuesday, November 15, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Paulo Figuereido Gallery, São Paulo
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    The first artworks that Schendel produced in Brazil, in the fifties and early sixties, were still life, landscape and portraiture thickly painted in oils on canvas or board. Although working across multiple media and exploring the possibilities of transparent materials in particular she continued to produce painting on canvas, paper and wood throughout her career. From 1962 onward, she began to use layers of tempera, and to produce a series of works that occupy an interstice between abstraction and figuration, many of which are entitled paisagem (landscape) or fachada (façade). Landscape, understood as the ability to convey the experience of being within exterior space, remained a consistent focus for her paintings and other two-dimensional works. A device commonly used by Schendel was the horizon line. By establishing two differentiated planes, this line appears as the lowest common denominator necessary to create the conditions for perception of space. Like many of her paintings, this work reconciles abstraction with figuration; yet at the same time, the question of what is being represented remains ambiguous. The concave line formed by the meeting of two dark tones suggests the mountainous landscapes that are conveyed by two later series of paintings and drawings, the Paisagens Noturnas [Night landscapes, 1975] and Paisagens de Itatiaia [Landscapes of Itatiaia, 1978-79]. But this curve is also evocative of the ovoid shape that is seen in her paintings of the 1960s. The letter ‘A’, meanwhile, is another consistent figure within Schendel’s vocabulary, and it is also one that appears in a similar relationship to the horizon line within the later Landscapes of Itatiaia, The letter ‘A’ was interpreted by one of Schendel’s closest interlocutors, the theoretical physicist, collector, curator and critic Mario Schenberg, as a three-sided “sign-letter-figure” that marks out its own separateness, or individuation, in contrast to the reciprocal relationship between coloured planes that forms the horizon line. In this way he read this letter as a sign of the potential for isolation contained by human consciousness, as opposed to the relatedness and reciprocity of the natural world. The use of gilt to render this element of the work is continued in other series of paintings of the seventies and is often attributed to Schendel’s developing interest in Chinese aesthetics.

  • Artist Biography

    Mira Schendel

    Brazilian • 1919 - 1988

    Born in Zurich and of Jewish heritage, Mira Schendel escaped Switzerland during World War II to settle in Sarajevo and Rome, finally immigrating to Brazil in 1953. In the 1960s, she began to produce her iconic monotipas, delicate drawings on luminescent rice paper. She rejected the notion of painting as a primary medium, abandoning the genre in the 1970s for almost a decade. Schendel worked mostly with paper and objects made of unusual materials such as Plexiglas, fabrics and aqueous inks.

    Recurring themes in her work include letters, geometric figures and phrases reflecting a radical lexicon, often juxtaposing elements from two languages (visual and numerical). Many of her works hover in the space between drawing and writing, creating a certain visual poetry that is completely her own. Schendel's works go beyond the materiality of making art and allow viewers to understand the relationship between language, time and human thought processes.

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Tempera on canvas.
18 1/2 x 9 in. (47 x 23 cm).
Signed and dated "Mira, 81" on the reverse.

$40,000 - 60,000 

Latin America

14 & 15 November 2011
New York