Yes / sim I have been in São Paulo for 5 days now – looking for the works of Mira Schendel and also experiencing the vast array of contemporary art and architecture that São Paulo offers. It is strange because I am aware of the big political problems in Brazil and the demonstrations that are going on in São Paulo, but I have not experienced this in the art museums and the hotel that I am staying in. Though I have discussed the politics with some friends of friends I have been introduced to here. I will be going to the coast to the Kaaysa Art Residency tomorrow and I hope I will learn more about the current situation from Brazilian artists.
Sometimes I question this drive I have to go to the territory of these artists that I admire, to travel long distances and try to connect with art in a “foreign” land. Once I am in the experience, in the new territory, I do not question it. It is incredibly stimulating to do this “embodied research” as my friend Sandra Firmin has described this part of my artistic process. Other friends have likened this search to a “treasure hunt.” But there is also the aspect of a strange land that I do not understand. Perhaps this is a little bit similar to Mira Schendel’s experience many years ago.
Mira Schendel (1919-1988) was born in Switzerland and immigrated to Brazil in 1949, a refugee of WWII. Schendel was raised Roman Catholic, though she had Jewish heritage. Mira had studied philosophy in Italy and maintained her interests in philosophy her whole life. Her artistic production began in Brazil – she was self-taught as an artist. Mira worked over a period of 4 decades across many mediums in Brazil. She was a prolific artist. Her work is collected by museums, of course, but it is also in many private collections so it is not always easy to find.
Please excuse me if I do not date and title all the works of Mira Schendel in this blog post. Many of her works are untitled. And I do not have access right now to the information on all the works.
Before coming to São Paulo I had researched the museums and galleries that hold collections of Mira’s work and are actively exhibiting her work. There were two recent exhibitions in São Paulo, both of which I missed but which I wanted to find out more about.
One was at MAM-SP (The São Paulo Museum of Modern Art) curated by Paulo Venancio Filho titled “Sinais / Signals.” It looks like it was a small but vital exhibit of Mira’s graphic works. I have the beautiful catalogue as well. Here are two images from this exhibition below.
MAM-SP holds the largest collection of Mira Schendels’ work (I think this is true). So I contacted the collections department at MAM – SP and communicated that since I had missed the exhibition “Sinais / Signals” I would like to see some of Mira Schendel’s work in person that is in the permanent collection of MAM- SP. Two wonderful women from the collections department met with me on Friday to talk to me about the possibility of seeing Mira’s works in person. This is a difficult request the works are in storage… However I might get to see some works in person on my way back through São Paulo at the end of October. They printed a document for me of every piece in the collection. They also took me to the library to look at the many catalogues of Mira Schendel’s work.
Here are a few of the pieces I would like to see if the museum can arrange it. I am very grateful to the hospitality that the staff of MAM-SP has shown me.
I went to Bergamin & Gomide Gallery yesterday and was able to see a few of Mira’s works in person. It is a beautiful gallery in the Jardins district of São Paulo – small but more museum like then gallery like in its curation and presentation. Here are a few of my “experiences” with Mira’s work… thank you for the hospitality shown me at Bergamin & Gomide and please excuse my bad I phone images too…
I think this is one of her early paintings. The texture and quality of the surface is subtle and beautiful – I think it is green tempera paint and then gold vertical stripes on the sides….
Here is another small painting at Bergomine & Gomide. I think this is tempera as well and you can see the burlap canvas texture.
Below is the back, you see her name on the burlap.
I was able to see two of the monotypes, one mounted In acrylic, the other mounted on paper. She she produced thousands of these monotypes on Japanese rice paper, so spare and beautiful…
Today, my last day in São Paulo, I went to the wonderful Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. It is one of the most important art museums in Brazil. I found three more works of Mira’s along with other wonderful art works.
This collage with tempera was kind of a surprise to me, I had never seen anything like this. It is untitled from 1964.
Also this very formal painting of Mira’s from 1962, untitled. It is tempera on canvas which I believe a lot of her early paintings are.
Finally I love the quality of this colorful little collage on paper, untitled, from 1976. Seeing this up close was wonderful. The small gold inscriptions and characters are beautiful and it reminds me of something like Tantric symbols and has some similarities with some of my works on paper.
So I am off to the Kaaysa Art Residency tomorrow on the coast at Praia de Boicucanga for the month of October. I will be posting about the residency and my work from there. I am so happy that I have had these experiences in São Paulo looking for Mira and also seeing other wonderful art and architecture. I am also excited about a more “grounded” experience at Kaaysa, by the ocean and in the rainforest with other artists from Brazil (and around the world) with whom I hope to meet and get to know. Vamos ver… we will see…
Link to the Kaaysa Art Residency: