curated by Sabine Schaschl
4 June to 6 September 2020 / Opening: 3 June, 6 pm
Museum Haus Konstruktiv is the first museum in Switzerland to dedicate a solo exhibition to Mira Schendel (1919–1988). Born in Zurich and later a resident of São Paulo, Schendel was one of Latin America’s most influential 20th-century female artists. In cooperation with the artist’s estate, which is managed by Hauser & Wirth, this exhibition was conceived with a focus on the drawn and painted oeuvre that Schendel produced from the 1960s until shortly before her death.
Mira Schendel came from an Italian-German family. Despite her Jewish heritage, she was given a Catholic baptism shortly after her birth in Zurich. In 1922, she and her mother moved to Milan. Later, she studied philosophy and attended classes in drawing and painting at a private art school. In 1939, as fascism was growing stronger, she emigrated, initially to Yugoslavia. She eventually moved to Brazil in 1949. There, she began to paint in a reduced and sometimes figurative style. She made contacts on the Brazilian art scene, and acquainted them with concrete and neo-concrete art. She was almost more interested in Western and Far Eastern philosophy, in theology and religion, in literature and poetry, and in mathematics and physics. She started to develop an independent language of forms, incorporating aspects of concrete poetry, semiotics and phenomenology.
In the mid-1960s, Mira Schendel came across extremely thin translucent rice paper from Japan, which she would experiment with for a long time and which is now seen as a characteristic feature of her artwork. For example, she used it in her so-called Monotipias, manually printing symbols, lines, numbers, letters and words onto sheets of this material, which she would fix between two acrylic-glass panels and hang from the ceiling in an installational manner, so they could be viewed from both sides. She also used this fragile paper to create Droguinhas (Little Nothings), with which she formed complex twisted objects. The Sarrafos are among the last works that Schendel produced. These are white painted wooden panels, each with a bent black bar projecting out into the space. These works are sophisticatedly balanced between poetic lightness and strict asceticism, a paradox that typifies many of her works.
Alongside a multitude of drawings and paintings, the exhibition at Museum Haus Konstruktiv also presents selected acrylic-glass objects and notebooks, and offers insight into the puzzlingly beautiful and beautifully puzzling work of this extraordinary artist.
Mira Schendel, Sarrafo , 1987 (1/2). O Retorno de Aquiles (The Return of Achilles), 1964 (3) / Courtesy the Estate Mira Schendel and Hauser & Wirth, Zurich / New York