Lygia Clark - Latin America New York Thursday, November 21, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of the Artist
    Private Collection, United States
    Private Collection, United Kingdom

  • Exhibited

    Venice, Biennale di Venezia, Brazilian Pavilion, 16 June- 7 October 1962
    New York, Galerie Lelong, Edge Order Rupture, 4 April- 4 May 2013

  • Literature

    M. J. Borja-Villel, G. Brett, F. Gullar, P. Herkenhoff and S. Rolnik, Lygia Clark, Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 1998, p. 124 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    When we play with Bichos, we un-learn the traditional dialogue of artists/art and spectator, in which the spectator is synonymous with receptor. When the spectator or rather initiator plays with Bichos, he plays with life, he identifies himself with it, feeling it in its totality, participating in a unique and total moment, he exists. The gesture is not the gesture of the artist when he is creating, but it is the very dialogue of the work with the spectator.
    Lygia Clark

    In retrospect, it is astonishing how coherently Lygia Clark’s work progressed throughout the Neo-Concrete period, from 1959 to around 1962. Even before the Manifesto was declared in March 1959, Lygia Clark’s Superfícies Moduladas series, which she initiated earlier in the 1950s, had shown a significant shift from an optical understanding of the figure-background relationship towards the phenomenological interpretation that was being professed by the Neo-Concrete group’s spokesman Ferreira Gullar. Although Clark would later question some of Gullar’s notions, it is clear that in the heat of the moment there was a keen interest shown by the artist in the relationship between the surface and the “objecthood” of the work. Gullar had been the first critic to notice the extreme coherence in the line of development that Clark’s painting had taken. For Gullar, her work expanded the arena of creative intervention to include the picture frame and from there it progressed into three dimensional space itself. Such a transition was indeed the catalyst for Gullar’s subsequent theoretical exploration through the notion of the non-object, which saw the fields of painting and sculpture approach each other to the point of becoming indistinguishable, in much the same way that Donald Judd would argue five years later in his essay entitled Specific Objects.

    Lygia Clark’s work thus initiated a process that broke away from the imposed boundaries of painting, beginning by crossing the divide between the painting and its frame. She then focused on the internal structure of the composition, or more precisely on the construction itself, which she achieved through an investigation of the actual divisions between the panels of color that she placed side by side. Another characteristic within this transition was the abandonment of the craft associated with the application of paint by means of a brush. Clark began to apply industrial paint by spraying it on the panels that would only then be placed within the surface, quite literally constructing the work. If the Superfícies Moduladas evidenced what Clark denominated as the organic line, or the gap that appeared when the panels were placed next to each other, subsequent series such as the Contra Relevos brought these panels out into space, that is to say, they were displaced from the single surface plane. In 1960, however, the Bichos further expanded the possibilities of the work’s relationship with space by offering themselves for manipulation and, as the artist herself described it, establishing a more profound and direct form of dialogue between the work and the viewer. The Bichos are—metaphorically but also quite literally (through the appearance of the hinge)— pivotal works within Clark’s oeuvre, as they transformed the organic line into a mechanism for relations between the observer and the art object.

    Describing the transformation of the organic line into the hinge of the Bicho, Clark invoked the idea of a spinal cord, thus attributing behavioral characteristics to these articulated objects. Indeed, she entitled the series as such—“bicho” being the Portuguese word for animal or beast—because they seemed to behave as if they had a will of their own. Although the artist determined the layout for each Bicho, she confessed not knowing how many configurations each one could assume. Despite at first appearing to allow unlimited possibilities, the viewer/ manipulator would eventually realize that not only are there limits, but also that the object itself imposes its own resistance and governing laws upon the manipulator. Clark claimed that: “Each Bicho is an organic entity which is totally revealed within the inner time of expression. It has affinities with the mollusc and the shell. It is a living organism, an essentially active work. Between you and it there is the establishing of a total, essential interaction. In the relationship established between you and the Bicho there is no passiveness, neither yours nor its.” Clark goes as far as to suggest that: “In fact there is a dialogue in which the Bicho has very well defined answers of its own for the spectator’s stimuli.” Anyone who has been fortunate enough to have manipulated one of these works will understand what the artist meant by this.

    One can only speculate on the reasons why Lygia Clark titled the Bicho presented here as Invertebrate, but if her statements above are anything to go by, it is reasonable to imagine that it possesses a particular flexibility in its articulation, that it is accommodating in its relation towards the viewer/manipulator.

    The reciprocity of the relation between viewer and object was fundamental to the direction Lygia Clark’s work would take over the course of the following decades. With Caminhando (1963), for example, Clark takes the archetypal form of Concrete art, the moebius strip, and proposes an experience which consists of making the strip out of paper and inserting a pair of scissors into its surface so that a cut can be followed along its single plane. Caminhando emerges perhaps as an homage to Max Bill, who was awarded the international sculpture prize at the first edition of the São Paulo Biennial in 1951 with Tripartite Unity—itself a moebius strip configuration—which became so influential for the Constructivist-oriented avant-gardes in Brazil. Clark, however, does away with the preciousness of the material, transforming form into pure experience. She described cutting it until reaching once again the first point of incision, only now from the other side of the page. According to the artist, the decision to go left or right of the initial incision would be critical, establishing the relationship between the person cutting and how the object would behave and unfold itself. The same type of reciprocity could be said to emerge in several subsequent works such as Pedra e Ar (Stone and Air, 1966), in which the elastic bands are attached to stones on each side. Like the very incision in Caminhando, the Bicho inaugurated a groundbreaking creative path that the artist took, one which had no return.

  • 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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Bicho invertebrado

7 5/8 x 23 5/8 x 21 1/4 in. (19.5 x 60 x 54 cm.) Dimensions vary according to configuration.
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Estate of Lygia Clark, numbered 685.
This work is promised to the Lygia Clark retrospective exhibition being organized by The Museum of Modern Art in New York, from 10 May to 24 August 2014.

$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for $1,865,000

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
+ 1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York 21 November 2013 4pm