Critics’ Picks

Mira Schendel, Objeto gráfico, 1967, white monotype on acrylic, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2’.

Mira Schendel, Objeto gráfico, 1967, white monotype on acrylic, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2’.

São Paulo

Mira Schendel

Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM)
Av. Pedro Alvares Cabral, s/nº – Parque Ibirapuera
January 17–April 22, 2018

Silence seems to be the message imparted by “Signals,” an exhibition comprising graphic elements that have always been ubiquitous in Mira Schendel’s artistic output. Rather than communicate something or spur action, Schendel’s signals indicate quietness—such as the subtle marks on her almost-transparent “Monotipias” (Monotypes), 1964–67, which were made on Japanese rice paper. Among the multitude of semantic elements that Schendel began to explore in this series, many are included here: lines and arrows that cross the paper and divide it into separate fields; numbers and punctuation marks; and asemic handwritten words.

Although language is a prominent aspect of the work of the Swiss-born artist, who migrated to Brazil in 1949, its communicative role has been mostly avoided in this precise selection arranged by Paulo Venancio Filho. There are very few works in which a complete sentence can be found. When they do appear, as in the monotype Este é um desenho gostoso (This is a delicious drawing), 1965, the meaning seems to gesture toward her own drawing process. As one makes one’s way through the show, words become rarer, dispersed into letters that float illegibly on acrylic surfaces hung from the ceiling, as in her series “Objetos graficos” (Graphic Objects), 1967.

The pictorial quality of writing in Schendel’s work can be observed as parallel with her non-native speaker’s perception of a language. This clearly appears in the two Monotipias from 1964, in which the words sol (sun) and lua (moon) are seen, enclosed in a circle with an arrow on the outside, as if the artist were assigning a meaning for these two universal elements through a correspondingly universal vocabulary.