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

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  • Provenance

    Galeria Raquel Arnaud, São Paulo
    Private Collection, Brazil
    Galeria de Arte Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    In this phase I initiated something I named a 'primary term': an expression of space-time. This surface only has the function as an abstract support (the ideal footing) and only exists to the extent that it is necessary to render such space: it turns into the time in which space is expressed.
    Lygia Clark, 1957

    Lygia Clark was a student of artist and landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx in Rio de Janeiro in 1947. She travelled to Paris in 1950 where she studied under Fernand Léger, amongst other modernist luminaries. Her first solo exhibition was held while she was still in Paris, at the gallery of the Institut Endoplastique in 1952. Upon her return to Brazil she joined the Grupo Frente, which formed around artist Ivan Serpa and, to a large extent, was responding to the rise of geometric abstraction in Brazil, and more specifically to São Paulo’s Concrete art Ruptura group. Lygia Clack quickly became one of the leading figures within the Grupo Frente. It was at this stage that she started to think of her work in terms of its relation to surface, attracting the attention of art critics such as Mario Pedrosa and Ferreira Gullar, who at the time were championing the tenets of abstraction in Brazil. During the mid 1950s she participated in several international exhibitions of Brazilian art in Paris, Montevideo and Buenos Aires, and in 1959 she was one of the signatories of the Neo-Concrete Manifesto, becoming what many now consider the paradigmatic Neo- Concrete artist. The poet and art critic Ferreira Gullar, spokesman of the group, described the work she produced immediately before the formation of Neo-Concretism as follows: “The importance of the series of works produced by Lygia Clark between 1954 and 1958 resides in the fact that through these works she freed the picture from its traditional connotations, breaking away from the space of representation that had been maintained throughout the non-figurative evolution from Mondrian to the Concretists.”

    Although Lygia Clark had occasionally produced architectural maquettes and diagrams for interior designs, Burle Marx’s influence as a tutor is also perceptible in the way she would think of the work of art in relation to its surrounding environment. In a statement for the newspaper Jornal do Brasil in 1959, shortly after the publication of the Neo-Concrete Manifesto, she suggested that a significant transition had taken place within her work as a consequence of the Superfícies Moduladas (Modulated Surfaces) series. The series also testifies how the artist began a process of aesthetic reduction, seeking the very essence of her creative proposal: a fact that can be verified by the gradual reduction in the colors employed, until they become limited to black, white and grey. At first, Lygia Clark said that she “was still composing with serialized forms, but considering them not as a work of art, but simply as an experimental field to be later integrated within the environment”. She concluded that: “Only in 1957 did I carry out (now aware of the role of this organic line in the sense of line-space) the first Superfície Modulada that I considered to be expressive in itself and no longer in terms of integration.”

    The Superfícies Moduladas were constructions made from cut-out panels painted with industrial paint and often arranged in a serialized manner. Lygia Clark would describe the groove which separated each of these panels as the organic line, leading Ferreira Gullar to develop further theoretical elaborations on the subject, to the extent that it became the primary example of the relation that Neo-Concrete artists had with the expressive possibilities of geometric abstract art.

    In Lygia Clark’s own words: “The expressional organic character began to exist again, as that which I wished to express was the space itself, and not to compose within it.” Here lies the principle distinction between the Neo-Concrete approach to geometry, one which is not engaged with space as an expression of serialized forms but one in which the spectator would become affected by the expressed space in a more active way. In Lygia Clark’s opinion (invoking the Neo-Concrete transition from Gestalt psychology to phenomenology) this took place less in the optic-mental sense and more in an organic way.

  • 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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Superfície Modulada No. 2

industrial paint on plywood
16 x 32 1/4 in. (40.6 x 81.9 cm.)
Signed "Lygia Clark" on a label affixed to the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Estate of Lygia Clark, numbered 544.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $461,000

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

Latin America

New York 21 November 2013 4pm