Cildo Meireles (Brazilian b. 1948)
Cildo Meireles (Brazilian b. 1948)


Cildo Meireles (Brazilian b. 1948)
several units signed 'Cildo Meireles' and alternately inscribed '1979' and '1981,' 's/n'; some units inscribed indistinctly (along edges of wood)
wood and rubber
overall dimensions variable; 72 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (184.2 x 3.8 x 13.9 cm.), 79 3/4 x 2 1/4 x 5 1/2 in. (202.6 x 5.7 x 13.9 cm), 42 x 15 x 5 in. (106.7 x 38.1 x 12.7 cm.), 39 7/8 x 14 x 6 1/8 in. (101.3 x 35.6 x 15.6 cm.), 46 1/4 x 4 1/2 x 1 (117.5 x 11.4 x 2.5 cm.), 45 x 1 1/4 x 1 1 /4 in. (114.3 x 3.8 x 3.8 cm.)
Executed in 1978-1981.
Six units.
Galeria Thomas Cohn, São Paolo.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Exhibition catalogue, Cildo Meireles, Valencia, IVAM-Institut Valencià D'Art Modern, Centre del Carmen, 1995, p. 42 (another example illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, O moderno e o contemporâneo na arte brasileira, coleção Gilberto Chateaubriand do Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, 1998 (another example illustrated).

Lot Essay

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist and dated 10 March 2015.

“I try to establish a repertoire of objects which are simultaneously substance and symbol — a familiar repertoire,” Meireles once explained of his work, which has repurposed such sundry items as matchboxes, razor blades, radios, and paper bags over the years. “The squeegee (to give just one example) is part of the lives of thousands of people, but there is a moment in which the objects are articulated, revealing their privacy. In other words, there is an internal, constitutive order, which is invisible.”[1] Such an ontological transformation of everyday items, often domestic and utilitarian, into objects of study in their own right has stimulated Meireles’s practice since the 1960s. Among the generation that came of age in the early years of Brazil’s military dictatorship, Meireles pioneered Conceptual art with works that explored systems feedback and phenomenological experience, often with incisive political overtones. From the well-known Insertions into Ideological Circuits (1970), in which he printed banknotes and Coca-Cola bottles with dissident messages and returned them to general circulation, to the spurious measurements of clocks and rulers in Fontes (1992), he has tapped the re-cognitive potential of objects that, mutatis mutandis, transcend their forms.

Meireles presents six permutations of the common squeegee in Rodos, rendering them all but unusable by inverting the proportions of wood to rubber. Differently dysfunctional, they vary in their dimensions; with some pieces freestanding and others mounted on a wall, they comprise an incongruous, post-Minimalist tableau of soft and hard materials, eccentric and modular all at the same time. Stripped of their function, they meditate on their occupational impotence—that is, their basic task of scraping away, of removing water and debris. “Perhaps everything in the universe is perishable,” Meireles pondered a few years later, turning over questions of consumption and waste that resonated, in the waning years of the dictatorship, in human as well as material terms. “Perhaps the universe is perishable,” he continued.  “What I do know is that the perishable is very different from the discardable.  The perishable is a metaphysical condition which can be overcome by accepting the hypothesis that the universe is finite.  ‘Discardability’ is a consumer-economic practice based on the illusion of infinity. . . . Perishability is knowing we are going to die.  Discardability is committing suicide because of it.  Not to be or not to be is the question.”[2]

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

1) Cildo Meireles, quoted in Frederico Morais, “Material Language: Interview with Cildo Meireles,” Tate Etc. 14 (Autumn 1998).
2) Meireles, “Obscure Light (1984),” in Paulo Herkenhoff, Gerardo Mosquera, and Dan Cameron, Cildo Meireles (London: Phaidon, 1999), 128.

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