Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mira Schendel

I was so happy to discover the work of artist Mira Schendel, through her show opening at Tate Modern later this month. I love the mix of bold, skewed combinations of pure shapes & colour, up against elaborate & complex webs of energy, which pull letterforms in all directions. Her work is playful, yet certain of when to stop. I am also drawn to the way she collaborated and mixed with poets, sculptors, critics etc, to form something of a 'movement' without the label. I am pretty uninformed about her work, but deeply moved by what I've seen so far, and can't wait for the show to open.

Mira Schendel was born in Zurich in 1919 and lived in Milan and Rome before moving to Brazil in 1949. She settled in São Paolo 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 inItaly, 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; a solo show at the Galeria de Arte SESI, São Paulo (1997); and Tangled Alphabets with León Ferrari at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009).