Mira Schendel - Latin America New York Wednesday, November 18, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of Ada Schendel, São Paulo
    Galeria Andre Millan, São Paulo
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Innovative and radical, Brazilian artist Mira Schendel once again presents us with a paradigmatic work. Distinguished by its acute material sensitivity and utilizing only the number zero (0) and the transparency of acrylic the present lot conveys concepts and emotions that denote profound and far-reaching connections to philosophical thought. In this work Schendel juxtaposes elements of two languages (numerical and visual), once again exploring and moving between a variety of materials and modes of expression.

    In order to best understand Schendel’s work and particularly her use of language, we must place it in the historical context that molded her philosophy of art and the work she was producing. Conceptual artists were rapidly emerging for whom art was not restricted to a single medium and where the concept trumpeted other visual concerns. Schendel, furthermore, rejected the notion of painting as the primary medium to express an artist’s vision, abandoning the genre in the 1970s and working mostly with paper. This led her to create her famous monotipias, a series of monotype drawings on transparent rice paper produced between 1964-1965. Between 1964-1968, she not only made drawings, but also a series of handwritten and printed letters that were mounted between large acrylic plates—a material she began experimenting with at this time—and suspended from the ceiling by wires entitled Objetos Gráficos. This evolution of her artistic vision led her to create works such as the present lot, which she collectively entitled Discos. In this work, as in others from the series, Schendel uses the transparency inherent to acrylic in order to reveal the body of an artwork built of “graphic objects” (i.e. numbers or letters). In addition, the transparency of the work required both sides of the piece to be a simultaneous consideration, and thus demanded multiple forms of address from the viewer. This further alludes to an understanding of the world as having no set direction from which to interpret its discourses, as opposed to religion, which she claimed provided an objective and structured order to life. This brings us to the circular shape of the work that conveys the use of disorder and freedom as a compositional concept and introduces Schendel’s interest in the specific connection between circular forms and non-western philosophy—a notion that was explicitly investigated in a later series, the Mandalas (1973). Furthermore, the figure of the zero, used here, speaks of her consistent interest in nothingness and its significance within Buddhist tradition as a paradoxical symbol of emptiness and, yet, inexhaustible potential. Ultimately, these compositional and conceptual decisions turn this emblematic work into a purely visual and entirely subjective experience, emulating a delicate and balanced composition of language, which floats freely in a liminal world of its own.

  • 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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acrylic, letraset and screws
Diameter: 8 2/3 x 3 1/4 in. (22 x 8.3 cm)
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Galeria Millan Antonio.

$250,000 - 350,000 

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

Latin America

New York Auction 18 November 2015 6pm