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    In this essay from 1992, Jean Clay outlines the salient concepts that are intrinsic to Lygia Clark’s work. In his opinion, the Brazilian artist’s trajectory is marked by the tendency toward fusion, an obsession with synthesis, and a rejection of categories. Clay breaks up her organic and intellectual work into three periods that culminate in the complete fusion of work and spectator. Clark’s early painted geometric abstract works, produced between 1954 and 1959, fused the frame and canvas. These canvases, Clay writes, questioned painting as an isolated object separated from the real world by the artificial boundaries imposed by the edges of the canvas. Beginning in 1960, when Clark worked mostly on her Bichos series [Critters, translated here as Animals] (1960-64), she produced foldable metallic objects that depended on the viewers’ manipulation and full engagement. Art became subject to the temporal and spatial randomness of human intervention. Following the Bichos series, Clark radicalized her questioning with her Trepantes [Creepers, translated as Going] (1964) series by asking viewers to cut up Möbius bands at whim until the strips lost their fundamental qualities and literally slipped out of the picture. Metaphorically, the bands’ disappearance gave way to a limitless field of action where art and life converged. Both series—Bichos and Trepantes—encompassed the second stage of Clark’s career, the fusion of art and the viewer (1960-68). The final stage in Clay’s scheme—Clark’s inside-outside fusion—emerged in 1966 when the artist culled everyday objects in order to trigger visceral tactile sensations from viewers. These works objectified physical reactions and, in doing so, proposed an experience as a new space for modern art. On one level, the collective actions represented an outwardly projection of the human body yet, physiologically, they also required a regression into a primordial state of unconsciousness from the participants.

    This document is part of The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


    The French art critic Jean Clay was instrumental in introducing the work of many Latin American artists to French audiences in the 1960s. Between 1967 and 1971, he edited the journal Robho, which he cofounded with poet and artist Julien Blaine. With graphic design by the Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, the magazine triggered dialogue between their competing interests in Kinetic art and guerrilla theater, respectively. Many of Robho’s central articles were devoted to Latin American artists including the Madí group from Argentina, Jesús Rafael Soto, Julio Le Parc, Hélio Oiticica, and Lygia Clark. Clay came into close contact with Clark during her Parisian period when she taught courses on gestural communication at the Sorbonne (1972-76). It was during this time that she explored the idea of sensory perception and her art became increasingly experiential and participatory, a process that Clay highlights in his 1992 text.