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Lygia Clark

Lygia Clark (Oct 23, 1920 – Apr 25, 1988) was a Brazilian artist best known for her painting and installation work She was often associated with the Brazilian Constructivist movements of the mid-20th century and the Tropicalia movement Even with the changes in how she approached her artwork, she did not stray far from her Constructivist roots Along with Brazilian artists Amilcar de Castro, Franz Weissmann, Lygia Pape and poet Ferreira Gullar, Clark co-founded the Neo-Concrete movement The Neo-Concretists believed that art ought to be subjective and organic Throughout her career trajectory, Clark discovered ways for museum goers to interact with her art works She sought to redefine the relationship between art and society Clark’s works dealt with inner life and feelings

Lygia Clark began her artistic studies in 1947, in Rio de Janeiro, under the guidance of Roberto Burle Marx and Zélia Salgado In 1950, Clark traveled to Paris where he studied with Arpad Szènes, Dobrinsky and Léger The artist dedicated herself to the study of stairs and drawings of its children, as well as realized its first oils After her first solo exhibition, at the Institut Endoplastique in Paris in 1952, the artist returned to Rio de Janeiro and exhibits at the Ministry of Education and Culture

Clark is one of the founders of the Frente Group that was created in 1954 Dedicated to the study of space and materiality of rhythm, she joins Decio Vieira, Rubem Ludolf, Abraham Palatnik, João José da Costa, among others

“Modulated Surfaces, 1952-57” and “Modulated Surface Plans, 1956-58” Lygia still participates in 1954 with the “Compositions” series of the Venice Biennial – a fact that will be repeated in 1968, when she is invited to exhibit in a special room all her artistic trajectory up to that moment

In 1959, he joined the I Neoconcreta Art Exhibition, signing the Neoconcrete Manifesto, alongside Amílcar de Castro, Ferreira Gullar, Franz Weissmann, Lygia Pape, Reynaldo Jardim and Theon Spanudis Clark proposes with his work that painting no longer stands on its traditional support Looking for new flights In “Units, 1959”, frame and “pictorial space” are confused, one invading the other, when Clark paints the frame of the color of the screen This is what the artist calls the “organic line” in 1954

Experience with the malleability of hard materials becomes flexible material Lygia Clark arrives at soft material: she leaves the hard matter (wood) aside, passes through the flexible metal of the “Bichos” and reaches the rubber in “Obra Mole, 1964” The transfer of power, from the artist to the proposer, has a new limit in “Walking, 1963” Cutting the tape meant, in addition to the “poetics of transference”, to detach itself from the tradition of concrete art, since Max Bill’s “Tripartite Unit, 1948-49”, symbol of the constructivist heritage in Brazil, was symbolically constituted By a Moebius tape This distorted tape in the “Mole Work” is now clipped in the “Walking” It was a limiting situation and the clear beginning of a new paradigm in the Brazilian Visual Arts The object was no longer outside the body, but it was the body itself that interested Lygia

The trajectory of Lygia Clark makes of her a timeless artist and without a very well defined place within the History of the Art Both she and her work escape from categories or situations in which we can easily pack; Lygia establishes a bond with life, and we can observe this new state in her “Sensory objects, 1966-1968”: the proposal to use objects of our daily life (water, shells, rubber, seeds) For example, an intention to detach the place of the spectator within the institution of Art, and to bring it closer to a state, where the world molds itself, becomes a constant transformation

In 1981, Lygia gradually slowed down the pace of her activities In 1983, in a limited edition of 24 copies, the “Work Book”, a true open work that accompanies, through texts written by the artist herself and manipulable structures, the trajectory of Lygia’s work from her earliest creations to The end of its neoconcrete phase

Tropicália artistic movement:
Lygia Clark is one of the most established artists associated with the Tropicália movement Clark explored the role of sensory perception and psychic interaction that participants would have with her artwork An example of Clark’s fascination with human interaction is her 1967 piece O eu e o tu (The I and the You) The piece consists of two industrial rubber suits joined together by an umbilical-like cord The participants wearing the suits would be joined together but unable to see one another, forming an almost psycho-sexual bond between the two Clark said of her pieces, “What’s important is the act of doing in the present; the artist is dissolved into the world”

Nostalgia of the Body:
In 1964, Clark began her Nostalgia of the Body series with the intention of abandoning the production of art objects in order to create art that was rooted in the senses The Nostalgia of the Body works relied on participant’s individual experiences occurring directly in their bodies These pieces addressed the simultaneous existence of opposites within the same space: internal and external, metaphorical and literal, male and female

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Art therapy:
Art critic Guy Brett observed that Clark “produced many devices to dissolve the visual sense into an awareness of the body” Clark’s later works focused heavily on the unconscious senses: touch, hearing and smell In her 1966 work, Breathe With Me, Clark formed a rubber tube into a circle and invited participants to hold the tube next to their ear The participants could hear the sound of air entering and exiting the tube, which produced an individual sensory experience for each participant

Stylistic periods:
During the early part of Clark’s career, she focused on creating small monochromatic paintings which were done in black, gray, and white During the 1960s, her work became more conceptual and she used soft objects that could be manipulated by the art spectator Clark later moved on to co-found the Neo-Concrete movement, which was joined by fellow Brazilian Hélio Oiticica Throughout her career, Clark’s art has involved an exploration of art’s effect on spectators One of her primary goals as an artist was to appeal to the average, everyday person, not just the bourgeois crowd

In the late 1950s, Clark and some of her contemporaries broke away from the Concrete group to start the Neo-concrete movement They published their manifesto in 1959 Helio Oiticica joined the group in 1960 The Neo-Concretists believed that art was subjective and organic In Clark’s writings, she articulates that an artwork should not be considered “a ‘machine’ nor an ‘object,’ but rather, an almost-body” which can only be made whole through viewer participation Clark and Oiticica fused modern European geometric abstraction art with a Brazilian cultural flavor The Brazilian Neo-Concrete movement borrowed their artistic ideas from Max Bill who was the director of the Ulm School of Design in Germany during the early 1950s One of the goals of this newest artistic group was to create worldly, modern art as opposed to the provincial style currently popular in Brazil The Neo-Concretists wanted art to be intuitive, yet expressive and subjective

The Neo-Concretists were interested in how an artwork could be manipulated by the spectator and that art could be used to “express complex human realities” They sought to create artworks to interact with the spectator and make the spectator more aware of his or her physical body and metaphysical existence They utilized 3-dimensional moveable figures so that the spectator, in essence, becomes the artist One example of this kind of artwork is Clark’s Bicho, a movable golden metal object with hinges Viewer participation was essential for the artwork to be complete Clark describes this exchange between viewer and Bicho as a dialogue between two living organisms In addition, Neo-Concretists looked to push the limits of what art represented For them, the art is the actual process of doing, and it is during this interaction that the spectator truly experiences what the artwork means

During 1960s-1970s Brazil, there was a counter-cultural movement that persisted even after the country was ruled under a military dictatorship At this point in time, Institutional Act Number 5 (aka AI5) was enacted and artists were forced into exile Many artists fled Brazil simply because they were unable to deal with the current political situation Clark spent these years in Paris where she taught at the Sorbonne, UFR d’Arts Plastiques et Sciences de l’Art de l’Université de Paris 1, a newly founded school remarkable for its open, experimental model in contrast to the more traditional beaux-arts academy format

During the 1970s, Clark explored the role of sensory perception and psychic interaction that the participants would have with her artwork She referred to this as “ritual without myth” For Clark, art work would have no representative meaning outside of its manipulation by the participants Participants would take the art objects and fashion them in any way that they pleased At this point, the line between the participant and art work would become blurred The participants would become one with the art piece In a sense, the participant and art work would become fused In the final years of her career, Clark focused solely on psychotherapy and the use of art in healing patients Clark’s objective through her art was to surpass each phase since ideas that were originally considered groundbreaking were outdated with regard to her latter works

Clark’s later, more famous works were viewed as “living experiences” Clark’s interactive art period lasted three decades She did not separate the mind from the body and believed that art should be experienced through all five senses After 1963, Clark’s work could no longer exist outside of a participant’s experience Her art became an interactive experience She believed that a viewer (also known as a “participant”) served an active and important function in the art world This is one reason Clark’s work cannot be adequately enjoyed at a museum In most museums, works are affixed to a stand or on the wall Clark’s works were meant to be manipulated by the viewer/participant Her belief was that art should be a multi-sensory experience, not just one enjoyed through the eyes

One of her most recognized interactive art pieces is Baba Antropofágica This piece was inspired by a dream that Clark had about an anonymous substance that streamed out from her mouth This experience was not a pleasurable one for Clark She viewed it as the vomiting of a lived experience that, in turn, was swallowed by others In a sense, Clark seemed to view this atrocity as a way of displaying its freedom One of Clark’s (and for that matter, Oiticica) aims was to create art directed toward a larger world audience, drawing attention toward its social issues thus achieving as sense of cultural freedom For her interactive art pieces, Clark always used inexpensive everyday objects These objects would then only have significance if they came into direct contact with a participant’s body

In the latter part of her career, Clark focused more on art therapy and less on the actual creation of a work When she returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1976, Clark’s therapeutic focus rest upon the memory of trauma She wanted to uncover why the power of certain objects brought about a vivid memory in her psychotherapy patients so that she could treat their psychosis Depending upon the individual, the sessions could be short-term or longterm Treatment came about through the relationship between the relationship object and how the participant interpreted its meaning

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