Lygia Clark - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Lygia Clark, 'Bicho - O antes é o depois', Lot 37

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Provenance

    Gifted by the artist to the present owner circa 1963

  • Exhibited

    Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tàpies; MAC, galeries contemporaines des Musées de Marseille; Porto, Fundação de Serralves; Brussels, Société des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lygia Clark, October 21, 1997 - September 27, 1998, p. 163 (illustrated)
    New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948-1988, May 10 - August 24, 2014, no. 254, p. 203 (another variant exhibited and illustrated)

  • Literature

    Lucia Leão, Interlab: Labirintos do Pensamento Contemporâneo, São Paulo, 2002, p. 183

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I am a totality… I already exist before the after. The after is what anticipates the act. The after is the moment of the immanent act” – Lygia Clark

    Executed in 1963, O antes é o depois is a rare work from Lygia Clark’s acclaimed Bicho series, which represented a critical juncture in her practice as she shifted away from painting to metal sculpture and performance. Carefully constructed from malleable strips of aluminum, O antes é o depois inscribes geometric line in space. While engaging in dialogue with Russian Constructivism’s groundbreaking deconstruction of pictorial language through metal sculpture, the work also reflects the organic dimension of Clark’s art, rooted in mid-century Brazilian countercultural ideas on the body and living things. A founding member of the 1950s Brazilian Neo-Concrete movement, Clark’s conceptual legacy has long been celebrated in Brazil, where she is credited for her radical investigations into the relationship between the object and the viewer. Over the past few decades, Clark’s legacy has been re-examined internationally, celebrating her remarkable practice as a bridge between the legacy of the modernist avant-gardes and contemporary sculpture. The present work was exhibited in a traveling show throughout Europe beginning at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona in 1997, while more recently another variant featured prominently in Clark’s major retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2014. Notably, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art just acquired one of the Bicho works for their collection earlier this year.

    Clark’s turn to the three-dimensional began with her studies in Paris in the early 1950s, where she became deeply influenced by Piet Mondrian’s exploration of spatial compositions. Following the return to her native Rio de Janeiro in 1953, Clark began to move away from abstract painting, and commencing in 1960, the artist created around seventy Bichos, translating colloquially to “critter”. This concept drew upon avant-garde Brazilian thought that imagined the country as a cultural cannibal, enlivened by its absorption of diverse European and indigenous cultures. “Each Bicho is…a living organism, a work essentially active,” Clark wrote in 1960 (Lygia Clark, “The Bichos”, 1963 in Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 160).

    In concept and design, O antes é o depois is intimately related to its Bauhaus and Russian Constructivist precursors, while also uncannily prescient of post-Minimalist ideas. With its unadorned surface and starkly sculptural planes, the work evokes Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist architectons of the early 1920s, built out of white plaques which cluster around one centripetal block in three dimensions, which he imagined as a way to overcome the limitations of the flat canvas. As the esteemed Brazilian poet and author Ferreira Gullar recalled in an essay about the inception of the Bichos, “When faced with a blank canvas she adopted an attitude even more drastic than Malevich’s…a new three-dimensional object in real space, but which was not a sculpture, since it was born from the painting, from the crisis of pictorial language, from the deconstruction of easel painting, and which I named ‘non-object’” (Ferreira Gullar, Cold America: Geometric Abstraction in Latin America, exh. cat., Fundación Juan March, Madrid, 2011, p. 51). This innovation anticipates Donald Judd’s freestanding, conceptually-driven sculptures and their blurred boundaries between art and the surrounding environment.

    The central idea behind the “objectlessness” of the Bichos was that they animated themselves through their relationship with the viewer. In the initial phase, Clark’s creatures were activated by their structure of articulated plaques and hinges, allowing each sculpture to change its shape depending on how the viewer handled it. While O antes é o depois is composed of articulated plaques, its flexible design without hinges signifies a breakthrough from the early, mechanical Bichos towards a more organic, participatory form of art. Clark’s process crystallized in the 1963 proposition Caminhando (Walking), a performance act in which Clark cut a Mobius strip to capture the movement of line beyond geometry and into space. “In the end, the path is so narrow it can no longer be cut…In being the work and the act of making the work itself, you and it become completely inseparable,” Clark wrote (Lygia Clark, “Caminhando”, 1963 in Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 160).

    The essence of this performance, in which the transient experience of creation becomes emblematic of the passage of time itself, is distilled in the form of O antes é o depois, which reflects the double spiral of the cut Mobius strip and its synonymous emphasis on the participant’s ability to create art. The hand-cut curves—free of any sculptural base which would mark it as an objet d’art—emanate a raw directness which invites the spectator to take part in the total experience of the work. It is in works such as O antes é o depois that Clark’s legacy becomes clear. Indeed, as Glenn D. Lowry, the director of The Museum of Modern Art, writes, “Clark was a pioneer in dismantling a long tradition of centering art in the materiality of objects…Hers was a truly foundational accomplishment that pushed the boundaries of art beyond art towards a new psychic and physical understanding of the human self” (Glenn D. Lowry, Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 7).

  • Artist Biography

    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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Property from an Important Private Brazilian Collection


Bicho - O antes é o depois

installation dimensions variable
approximately 15 1/2 x 19 x 19 in. (39.4 x 48.3 x 48.3 cm.)

Executed in 1963, this work is variant 1 of 5 variants plus 1 artist’s proof and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Authentication Committee from the Estate of Lygia Clark.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019