Tunga (Brazilian b. 1952)
Property from the Estate of Anita Reiner
Tunga (Brazilian b. 1952)

Palíndromo incesto

Tunga (Brazilian b. 1952)
Palíndromo incesto
iron copper and magnets
28½ x 82¼ x 50 7/8 in. (72.4 x 208.9 x 129.2 cm.)
Executed in 1992-2002.
Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Sale room notice
Please note this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Galeria André Millan and signed by the artist.

Please also note the correct medium for this work is iron, dust iron, magnet and copper thread.

Lot Essay

We are grateful to the artist for his assistance cataloguing this work.
"If one thing is opposed to another, the two are not necessarily contradictory," Tunga once explained. "If there is a lesson to be learned in Brazil, it is that in Brazil there are no opposites. What we find is the coexistence of what are conventionally called opposites. . . . Perhaps at the juncture between the two we can find the avant-garde of Brazilian culture."[1] For nearly four decades, Tunga's sculptures and installations have explored the poetics of duality: male and female, hard and soft, nature and industry. Trained as an architect, he emerged as part of a celebrated generation of Brazilian conceptualists--among them, Cildo Meireles, José Resende, and Waltercio Caldas--who produced increasingly experimental, socially and materially transgressive work beginning in the 1970s. Drawing in different measures from Brazilian Constructivism and Surrealist psychoanalysis, he has since evolved an elaborate iconography of ritual, seduction, and metamorphosis.

A key, recursive element within his repertory is hair, a Surrealist fetish object par excellence and a symbol overripe with female eroticism. Tunga's capillary narrative has a suggestively alchemical point of origin in a Nordic myth about Siamese twins, joined by hair, who were sacrificed upon reaching puberty. Presented with the scavenged scalp as a trophy, a woman began to embroider an image she recalled from a dream; as she worked, the hairs turned to metal and became gold.[2] The scalp as palimpsest entered Tunga's personal mythology in 1980 and has remained a pregnant leitmotif throughout his career. A distillation of the folk tale, the present work meditates on the nature of attachment and transformation: gleaming copper tresses wend in and around the set pieces of the story--thimbles, needle, comb. The proliferation of magnets evokes the enigmatic attractions and repulsions of opposing forces, probing at the essence of (self-)estrangement and seduction. Inasmuch as the power of the magnetic field determines the sculpture's shape and dramatic arc, it also alludes to Brazil's rich mineral resources and the complexity of the country's mining industry. Here and elsewhere, Tunga commingles natural history and folklore into an allegory of identity, doubling, myth-making, and materiality.

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

1 Tunga, quoted in Simon Lane, "Tunga," BOMB 78 (Winter 2001-02): 44.
2 See Tunga, "Capillary Xiphopagus Between Us," Barroco de lírios (São Paulo: Cosac & Naify, 1997), 51-4.

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