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Retrospective survey of the work of Swiss-born, Brazilian artist Mira Schendel opens at Serralves Museum
Mira Schendel is one of Latin America’s most important and prolific post-war artists whose unique oeuvre addresses themes of existence, language and meaning.
PORTO.- Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art presents a retrospective survey of the work of Swiss-born, Brazilian artist Mira Schendel (1919-1988). This is the first exhibition devoted to the artist work to be presented in Portugal.

Mira Schendel is one of Latin America’s most important and prolific post-war artists whose unique oeuvre addresses themes of existence, language and meaning. Along with her contemporaries, Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica, Schendel redefined the language of European Modernism in Brazil. The exhibition will bring together over 200 paintings, drawings and sculptures produced by Schendel throughout her career.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are the artist´s rarely seen early paintings produced between 1955 and 1965; the Droguinhas (Little Nothings) of 1965-66, soft sculptures made from knotted rice paper and originally exhibited in London´s Signals Gallery in 1966; and Graphic Objects, first shown at the 1968 Venice Biennial, in which language and poetry are primary compositional elements. Also included are important works that address the relationship between the body and space, such as the installations Still Waves of Probability 1969 and Variants 1977 and Schendel’s final complete series of abstract paintings titled Sarrafos from 1987.

Mira Schendel was born in Zurich in 1919 and lived in Milan and Rome before moving to Brazil in 1949. She settled in São Paulo in 1953, where she married Knut Schendel, and where she lived and worked until her death in 1988. Although brought up as a Catholic, Schendel was persecuted during WWII for her Jewish heritage. She was forced to leave university, due to anti-Semitic laws introduced in Italy, and flee to Yugoslavia.

Schendel’s early experience of cultural, geographic and linguistic displacement is evident in her work, as is her interest in religion and philosophy. She developed an extraordinary intellectual circle in São Paulo of philosophers, poets, psychoanalysts, physicists and critics – many of them émigrés like herself – and engaged in correspondence with intellectuals across Europe, such as Max Bense, Hermann Schmitz and Umberto Eco. Among key exhibitions featuring Schendel’s work were the first and numerous subsequent editions of the São Paulo Bienal; the 1968 Venice Biennale; and Tangled Alphabets with León Ferrari at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009).

The exhibtion is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue including interviews with Mira Schendel, and essays by the curators Tanya Barson and Tasia Palhares, and by scholars of the the artist´s work: John Rajchman, Isobel Whitelegg and Caue Alves.

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