Unidade I

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  • Provenance

    Collection of Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro
    Private Collection, Rio de Janeiro
    Private Collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Segunda Exposição Neoconcreta, 1959
    Bahia, Convento do Carmo, 1a Bienal Nacional de Artes Plásticas, December 1966
    Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Lygia Clark, 22 October- 21 December 1997, then travelled to Marseille, Le Musée d'Art Contemporain (16 January- 12 April 1998), Porto, Fundação Serralves (30 April- 28 June 1998), Brussels, Société des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts (24 August- 27 September 1998), Rio de Janeiro, Paço Imperial (8 December 1998- 28 February 1999)

  • Literature

    L. Figueiredo, Ed., Lygia Clark/Hélio Oiticica: Cartas 1964-74, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro: Rio de Janeiro, 1996, p. 76
    Lygia Clark, exh. cat., Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, 1997, p. 102 (illustrated)
    S.B. Martins, Constructing an Avant-Garde: Art in Brazil 1949-1979, MIT Press: Cambridge, 2013, p. 58 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The provenance of this particular Unidade I by Lygia Clark deserves attention, not simply because it belonged to her friend and fellow Neo-Concrete artist Hélio Oiticica, but because it invites one to consider the productive character of that friendship. In a letter from Hélio to Lygia, the younger artist confesses to have used the work, hung in his house in Rio de Janeiro, as a means of testing the character of those who visited him. For Hélio, liking this work was a sign of intelligence. This anecdote would not surpass the level of mere curiosity had it not been for the significant relation that Oiticica’s Invenções series (sometimes also called Monocromáticos) has with Clark’s Unidades. For art historian Michael Asbury, “what Oiticica seemed to be proposing during that period was a parallel interpretation to the concurrent reading of Lygia Clark’s work by [art critic Ferreira] Gullar. The relationship between rational form and intuition, expressed in Clark’s work through such notions as the organic line, was ‘translated’ by Oiticica into the domain of color. Oiticica discussed Clark’s Unidades in relation to color and time. Indeed, the fact that Clark’s Unidades and Oiticica’s Monocromáticos [or Invenções] possess similar dimensions emphasizes the assumption that Oiticica’s use of color could be seen as equivalent to Clark’s use of line.”

    Such a supposition seems to be confirmed by one of the best known photographs of Lygia Clark, sitting elegantly in front of an arrangement of her Unidades displayed on the wall behind her, including the present lot. The disposition not only reveals a further correspondence with the way in which Oiticica’s Invenções were to be displayed, but also serves almost as a demonstration of the investigation Clark was proposing through the Unidades series, one which would become fundamental to her Neo-Concrete production and beyond.

    The Unidades series (1958) actually predates the publication of the Neo-Concrete Manifesto in the weekend supplement of the national broadsheet Jornal do Brasil in March 1959. The Unidades show characteristics that would determine her path throughout the short lived but hugely influential Neo-Concrete movement. If the artist, prior to the manifesto, had begun to incorporate the actual framing device into the work’s compositional field, the Unidades demonstrate a process of sophisticated elimination of any elements that might be considered excessive to this purpose. They reduced, in other words, the process of incorporation of the frame to it most essential level. One could also speculate that the artist was playing with the limits between a line and an area within the picture’s surface. If this was indeed the case, then it would represent a mathematical problem that is very distinct to the approach of other contemporaneous artists involved with the precepts, as Clark herself then was, of concrete art. The distinction lies in the fact that mathematics are not invoked here as an accomplice of rationalism, of an a priori concept, but, on the contrary, it appears as an expression of pure subjectivity.

    The Unidades appear therefore as visual testimonies of the discord that had begun in 1956 between the São Paulo concrete art group and Ferreira Gullar and his colleagues in Rio de Janeiro, which would ultimately lead to the declaration of independence brought by the Neo-Concrete Manifesto.

  • Artist Bio

    Lygia Clark

    Brazilian • 1920 - 1988

    Lygia Clark was a Brazilian artist associated with the Constructivist and Tropicalia movements. During the 1950s she was primarily known for her paintings and sculptures, but during the 1960s and 1970s she began to explore the idea of sensory perception. Along with other Brazilian artists including Helio Oiticica, she co-founded the Neo-Concrete movement based on the principle that art should be subjective and organic, liable to manipulation by the spectator. She sought new ways to engage the viewer ('the participant') with her work, which became increasingly abstract and holistic. Clark's focus on healing and art therapy redefined the relationship between art and the public, and has become a seminal point of reference for contemporary artists addressing the limitations of conventional art forms.

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15

Unidade I

1958
industrial paint on plywood
11 3/4 x 11 3/4 in. (30 x 30 cm.)
Inscribed "Coleção Hélio Oiticica" on the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Estate of Lygia Clark, numbered 699.

Estimate
$400,000 - 600,000 

sold for $461,000

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
lgonzalez@phillips.com
+1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York Auction 29 May 2014 4pm