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In this short essay, published in the magazine of the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM-RJ), curator Agnaldo Farias discusses the “introverted,” “intimate” power of Lygia Clark’s work, relative to the social, extroverted works of her Concrete and Neo-Concrete colleagues. Though her works were also social, and took part in the “epistolary exchange” emphasized by Hélio Oiticica and Neo-Concretism, Farias writes that “although they were embedded in the same trunk of affinities, they protruded in opposite directions.” While both artists moved away from the wall and into space, Clark was careful to complicate the move’s assumptions about a “universal man” that would interact with the work. From her Bichos of the 1960s to her Objetos Relacionais, her final works, Clark attended to the individual, living spectator that brought his or her subjective experience to the work. Clark’s work does not engage the “vague behavior of those who wander, preoccupied, through public art exhibitions,” but rather an “intimate accomplice.” Through this distinction, Farias conceives Clark’s art not as “works,” but – as the title suggests – as “rituals.”
The Brazilian scholar, critic, and curator Agnaldo Farias (b. 1955) was, at the time of this publication, chief curator at MAM-RJ. He wrote this essay in conjunction with the large survey exhibition O Objeto no Cotidiano da Arte; it followed Reynaldo Roels Jr.’s essay “A Arte e as Coisas” in the museum’s magazine (see doc. no. 1293883 in the ICAA digital archive). The exhibition, which opened at MAM-RJ on March 31, 1999, was alternately titled Cotidiano/Arte: Objeto Anos 60/90 and O Cotidiano e a Arte: o Objeto and later traveled to the Itaú Cultural Institute in São Paulo. Taking a long view of the lasting effects of the major ontological questions posed by the Constructive and Concrete artists of the mid-twentieth century, it focused on newer practices that continued to engage the viewer as activator of the work, and demonstrated how the radical social implications of that shift continue to reverberate for successive generations of artists. Lygia Clark (1920-1988) was born in Belo Horizonte and trained under Roberto Burle Marx in Rio de Janeiro, and with Fernand Léger and Arpad Szènes in Europe. Though her early works were abstract paintings, primarily in black and white, her interest in geometry and space led her to experiment with expanding beyond the pictorial field toward three-dimensionality. Having helped to found the Grupo Frente in Rio de Janeiro, she later signed the Neo-Concrete Manifesto and abandoned painting in 1959. In the 1960s, her non-objects, still exploring three-dimensionality, increasingly incorporated the viewer to play a part in completing an “unfinished” work. In later decades, she extended this tactile logic to explore its therapeutic possibilities, transforming the viewer once more, from participant to patient. Clark has contributed to many exhibitions, among them the I Exposição Nacional de Arte Abstrata in Petrópolis (1953), the I Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta in Rio and São Paulo (1956, 1957), Konkrete Kunst in Zurich (1960), the Venice Biennale (1960, 1962, 1968), Nova Objetividade Brasileira at the MAM-RJ (1967), Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte in Rio (1977), Tradição e Ruptura in São Paulo (1984), Modernité: art brésilien du 20ème siècle in Paris (1987), Bienal Brasil Século XX (1994), and Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America at the MFAH (2004). She contributed to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 22nd São Paulo biennials, receiving prizes and participating in special salons. Her first solo exhibition was at the Institut Endoplastique in Paris (1952), and later ones were held at Signals Gallery in London (1965) and Denise René in Paris (1965), in addition to retrospectives at the Fundació Antoni Tápies in Barcelona (1997), the Itaú Cultural in São Paulo (2004) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014). [For more by Agnaldo Aricê Caldas Farias, see “O bestiário de Caetano de Almeira” (doc. no. 1111259); “Galeria Luisa Strina: 20 anos” (doc. no. 1111036); “Notas à margem” (doc. no. 1111158); “Os trabalhos de Anna Barros...” (doc. no. 1111420); and “João Cândido Galvão: ‘fiz uma Bienal com transgressores’” (doc. no. 1111317) in the ICAA digital archive].