Mira Schendel

Exhibition, Hauser & Wirth, New York, US.

From September 7, 2017 until October 21, 2017
This exhibition brings together a group of paintings from Mira Schendel ’s Sarrafo and Brancos e Pretos series, two major bodies of work from the last decade of her life, accompanied by related drawings and works on paper. One of the most signi cant artists working in South America in the second half of the 20th century, Schendel contributed to the dialogues of the prevalent Concrete and Neo-Concrete art movements of the time and ultimately emerged as a distinct voice, successfully crafting a unique visual language that conveyed her desire to transcend the material and technical limitations of art making. Cerebral and poetically profound, her final series, Sarrafo encapsulates an oeuvre that explored notions of temporality and transience.
Born in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1919, Mira Schendel was raised in Milan, Italy, where she pursued studies in art and philosophy. Beginning in 1941, she was forced to move between Bulgaria, Austria, and Yugoslavia to avoid persecution, finally settling in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1953. Arriving in her new country at a moment of social and artistic revolution, Schendel immersed herself in São Paulo’s vibrant cultural and intellectual milieu. Although she was initially involved with the Concrete and Neo-Concrete movements that emerged in the 1950s, Schendel quickly established her independence, developing a distinct visual language influenced by her engagement with a circle of poets, physicists, philosophers, and fellow visual artists. While these peers sought a uniquely Brazilian answer to European Modernism, Schendel charted an autonomous course, forming her own approach to abstraction and drawing on influences ranging from quantum physics to phenomenology, from Zen Buddhism to experiences of displacement.
The singular combination of ethereality and tangibility that characterizes Schendel’s art finds its coda and climax in the Sarrafos and Brancos e Pretos series on view at Hauser & Wirth, 69th Street. The Sarrafos are white tempera panels, each starkly intersected by a single, angled black bar that enters into the physical space of the viewer, demanding to be experienced rather than viewed. Resembling fragmented crossbeams, these black bars act as gestures of individuation, interrupting the monochromatic surfaces from which they protrude.