Mira Schendel, Tate Modern, London

Mira Schendel, Tate Modern, London

For the first time Tate Modern will stage an international comprehensive survey of the work of Mira Schendel (1919-1988). As one of Latin America’s most important and prolific post-war artists, she has made an influential contribution to the art world. Along with her contemporaries Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, Schendel reinvented the language of European Modernism in Brazil. Running until 19 January, the exhibition exemplifies how Tate is continuing to rethink and re-present the history of modern and contemporary art by showcasing those working outside of USA and Europe.

The presentation collates over 270 paintings, drawings and sculptures from across her entire career, many of which have never been exhibited before. Highlights include her Droguinhas (Little Nothings) 1965-6, soft sculptures of knotted rice paper in the form of malleable nets, originally exhibited in London (Signals, 1966); and the Graphic Objects 1967-8, a group of works that explore language and poetry and were shown at the 1968 Venice Biennale.

The artist grew up in Milan and after the war she lived in Rome before moving to Brazil in 1949. Settling in São Paolo in 1953, she married Knut Schendel and lived and worked their 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 where she lived for a number of years.

Influenced by her early geographical movements, displacement appears throughout her practice. Once in São Paulo she developed an extraordinary intellectual circle of philosophers, poets, psychoanalysts, physicists and critics and engaged in correspondence with intellectuals across Europe, such as Max Bense and Hermann Schmitz. Schendel’s work has appeared in numerous significant exhibitions including several 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).

Mira Schendel, until 19 January, Tate Modern, Southbank, London.

1. Mira Schendel 1919-1988, Variants 1977, Oil on rice paper and acylic sheets, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art © The estate of Mira Schendel.