Mira Schendel - Latin America New York Thursday, November 21, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of Ms. Yara Maria Forte Cohen, São Paulo
    Inox Galeria, Rio de Janeiro
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    São Paulo, James Lisboa Escritório de Arte, Sob um céu tropical, August- September 2009

  • Literature

    Sob um céu tropical, exh. cat., James Lisboa Escritório de Arte, São Paulo, 2009, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    My concern is with capturing the transfer of the instant living experience, full of empirical vigor, onto the symbol imbued with memorability and relative eternity.
    Mira Schendel

    The art of Mira Schendel evades art historical paradigms and challenges our understanding of the development of avant-garde practices in Brazil from mid-20th century onwards. As an artist she emerged at a moment in which the abstract and constructivist-oriented avant-gardes were thriving in Brazil. Despite establishing friendships and intellectual relationships with many of the principal protagonists within these strands, such as the art critic Mario Schenberg, the poet Haroldo de Campos and the philosopher Vilen Flusser, she never adhered to any particular movement. Schendel was born in Zurich in 1919, but following her parents separation when she was young, she moved to Milan with her mother. Of Jewish origin, she fled to Bulgaria in 1941 in order to escape the onslaught of fascism. She arrived in Porto Alegre, the most Southern state of Brazil, in 1949 and began making art, later moving to São Paulo in 1953.

    As a self-taught artist, one would assume that the turbulent times she experienced prior to her arrival in Brazil would become apparent or expressed in one form or another in her work, yet the artist herself seldom referred to her past either verbally or in writing. If such experiences informed the work, as formative and/or traumatic experiences most certainly do, they did so in such a profound manner that it becomes impossible to specify. In a sense, this evasiveness of meaning, or more precisely, the abstractedness of her creative thought would be present even in her most figurative work.

    Schendel escapes the entrenched theoretical and aesthetic positions that defined the 1950s and that would inform much of the most innovative work of the 1960s in Brazil. Her work was in this sense neither overtly figurative nor abstract. Later on it did not adhere to the idea of dematerialization of the object, nor to the omnipresence of mass culture in an overt manner. It did however relate to all these tendencies, often simultaneously.

    There is however an important relationship between the philosophical or spiritual inquiry in Schendel’s work and her use of materials. The present lot therefore seems to invoke the hallmarks of the informal abstraction that swept through Brazil following the 1959 São Paulo Biennial. However, it would be misleading to read such a work within that strand of modern art. Instead, as far as Mira Schendel is concerned, one must focus on the materiality of the object, and particularly on the symbolic and spiritual evocations of the color gold. In this sense, Mira Schendel approaches far more an artist such as Yves Klein than those followers of informal abstraction.

  • 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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circa 1970
tempera and gold ink on board
21 1/4 x 12 x 1 in. (54 x 30.5 x 2.5 cm.)

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $281,000

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

Latin America

New York 21 November 2013 4pm