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    In this catalogue essay, curator Luciano Figueiredo discusses the insufficiency of museological criteria in exhibiting the complex work of Lygia Clark, which demands to be approached in an “open” and “receptive” manner, rather than with a formal or aesthetic gaze. Her Bichos, for example, are “articulated sculptures which have to be manipulated by the audience,” and thus have posed problems to collectors and art institutions exhibiting them. Even as the art world “tried to reintegrate her to its realms,” Figueiredo writes, “it is up to us to shower her work within its own context.” He thus concludes by ceding the remainder of the text to Lula Wanderley, a psychotherapist, as well as excerpts of writing by the artist herself.

     

    In several short sections, Wanderley reflects on Clark’s “search for the body,” that is, her pursuit of a language in which observers take part in the creative process rather than contemplating its product: “Eliminating the communication process and establishing a direct body-to-body contact, the object would be dissolved and incorporated by the participant.” She traces the development of Clark’s “relational objects” by dissolving boundaries between the body and the sensorial surface of an object, shifting one’s “affective contact with a broader reality.” After describing the clinical functions of such relational objects in psychotherapy, Wanderley’s analysis gives way to reproductions of texts written by Clark in the early 1960s. In them, she elaborates on her process, her theories on the “death of the rectangular plane,” and her “propositions” (participatory works such as Caminhando and Bichos) for which “the work, being the act of making the work, you and it become wholly indissociable.”
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    Lygia Clark (1920–88) 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 Tàpies in Barcelona (1997), the Itaú Cultural in São Paulo (2004) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014). This exhibition catalogue accompanied the special exhibitions of Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark at the MAM-RJ, part of the 22nd Bienal de São Paulo in 1994. As the catalogue notes, the careers of both artists were “entirely linked to the MAM-RJ,” and serve as “the most significant representatives of the creativity and aggressiveness of Brazilian art.” The museum’s Lygia Clark Project, developed over the course of five years, gathered and catalogued the artist’s archives and relational and sensorial works, making the materials available to the public for the first time.

     

    [For complementary reading from this exhibition, see in the ICAA digital archive by Luciano Figueiredo “Hélio Oiticica” (doc. no. 1314895).

     

    For more on Lygia Clark, see by the artist herself “1968: Somos domésticos?” (doc. no. 1110516), “De la supression de l’objet (notes)” (doc. no. 1110686), “Uma experiência de integração” (doc. no. 1085817), “O homem, estrutura viva de uma arquitetura biológica e cellular” (doc. no. 1110691), “Livro-obra” (doc. no. 1110327), and “Lygia Clark” (doc. no. 1111070). In addition, see by David Medalla “Lygia Clark at Signals London” (doc. no. 1232662); by Mário Pedrosa “A obra de Lygia Clark” (doc. no. 1085908); by Guy Brett “Lygia Clark: in search of the body” (doc. no. 1232526) and “Un salto radical” (doc. no. 808389); by Mónica Amor “From Work to Frame, In-between, and Beyond: Lygia Clark’s and Hélio Oiticica’s work 1959-1964” (doc. no. 1281344) and “The experimental exercise of freedom” (doc. no. 1281504); by Luis Pérez-Oramas “Abstraction, organism, apparatus: notes of the penetrable structure in the work of Lygia Clark, Gego, and Mira Schendel” (doc. no. 1159688); by Miguel Rojas Mix “Arte en América Latina” (doc. no. 1091066); by Alma Ruiz “Open up: An Introduction” (doc. no. 1160023); by Vera Pedrosa Martins de Almeida “L’homme est le centre” (doc. no. 1110692); and lastly “Dossier Argentine: Les Fils de Marx et Mondrian” (doc. no. 761610)].