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

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  • Provenance

    Galeria André Millan, São Paulo
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Indeed, today, even in painting, no matter how much I use geometric shapes, the sensory element of the brushstroke, the texture is always there; for me this is very important. I would never make a completely smooth painting.
    Mira Schendel, 1981

    Mira Schendel stands out as one of the most inventive and talented artists to have emerged out of Latin America during the postwar period. Although born in Zurich, Schendel was raised in Milan where she eventually studied philosophy and became a trained poet. However, as Nazi persecution escalated in Italy, Schendel, who was of Jewish descent, fled to Yugoslavia and ultimately left Europe to begin her life anew in Brazil. As an immigrant at the age of thirty, Schendel began experimenting with the plastic arts and became one of the most accomplished painters, printmakers, and draftsmen of her generation. Her protean oeuvre refashions the visual vocabulary of European modernism in order to explore philosophical themes regarding language, existence, chaos and the relationship between space and time, among other themes. The questions and insights provoked by Schendel’s work provide a point of entry into the illustrious intellectual circle of psychoanalysts, mathematicians, art critics and poets that Schendel frequently interacted with while in Brazil.

    This untitled painting immediately speaks to the way that Schendel persistently investigated the relationship between materiality, planes, space and color with the intent to produce an elucidating experience of visual phenomena for the viewer. Because of its completely abstract, carefully balanced composition, this painting, along with other similar works Schendel produced in the early 1960s, was judged by critics as evidence of the artist’s experimental rapprochement to Concrete Art, a movement that had taken root in Brazil via Max Bill and which favored the construction of art through rationalist principles. Yet within Untitled, a dense, highly textured surface immediately undercuts the stark rationalism of Concrete Art. Drawing from the movement that was typified by mechanizing the abstract, Schendel’s Untitled nonetheless appeals more sensually to the viewer’s desire to touch.

    When we evaluate the canvas’s formal aspects, the viewer encounters a clever play with dimensionality. The correspondence between the thin rectangular stripe that appears at the top right and bottom left of each side of the canvas initiates a dynamic play of colors: the top black rectangle seems to recede, while the lighter rectangle at the bottom projects forward. As a result, one feels as though the composition’s two large rectangles are sliding against one another along the central vertical axis of the painting, like two quaking tectonic plates. In this way, each element reveals another—a subtle yet energizing effect that radicalizes the overall sober palette of the work.

    Untitled’s dynamism and haptic quality point to Schendel’s dialogue with the Neo-Concrete movement, a group that also favored a move towards a more subjective abstraction and sought to produce even more pronounced phenomenological encounters through their art. Although informed by Neo-Concretists such as Hélio Oticica, Sergio Camargo, Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape, Schendel never joined the Neo- Concrete group or the ensuing Tropicalia cultural movement, due in part to her fierce independence and her work’s resistance to easy categorization. Still her later works, such as her celebrated Droguinhas series of the second half of the sixties or her late Tijolos series of the 1980s, all continue to foster aesthetic interactions that are centered on the physicality of materials and the subtlety of complex formal arrangements as in Untitled.

  • 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 1960
oil on canvas
19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in. (50.2 x 69.9 cm.)
Signed "Mira" on the reverse.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $209,000

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

Latin America

New York 21 November 2013 4pm