Lygia Pape - Latin America New York Tuesday, November 15, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galeria Graça.Brandão, Lisboa
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Lygia Pape’s trajectory as an artist approaches that of Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. They had all been members of Grupo Frente, a loose association of artists centred around Ivan Serpa in the mid-1950s, with varying degrees of affiliation with Concrete art or geometric abstraction. Together these three artists would form the radical wing of the Neo-Concrete group from 1959 to 1961.

    Central to Neo-Concretism was the rejection of Concrete art’s a priori approach to creation. The Neo-Concrete artists and particular their spokesman, the poet and critic Ferreira Gullar, argued that creative practice could not be prescribed through formulas. In fact, any theory associated with the work would emerge as a consequence of the act of creation. Gullar argued that Neo-Concretism represented an important stage within the development of modern art whereby painting had transcended its frame and sculpture its base. In this sense both moved into ‘real’ space. Such an awareness of the surrounding space of the work of art was a consequence of Gullar’s reading of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology and is reflected, perhaps more intuitively, in the work of the Neo-Concrete artists.

    According to the art historian and critic Ronaldo Brito, Neo-Concretism represented the ‘peak and rupture’ of the constructivist tradition in Brazil. Such a dichotomy was contained within the group itself and to a certain extent was a consequence of the differing approaches that the members had with regard to space. For artists such as Amilcar de Castro, Willys de Castro and Franz Weissmann the engagement with space remained a formal exercise that articulated the relation between two and three dimensions, while for Clark, Oiticica and Pape the engagement with space would entail the increasingly participatory role of the spectator leading, particularly after the dissolution of Neo-Concrete group, to the work’s insertion within a social space and to the questioning of the nature of art itself.

    It must also be noted that poetry had a crucial role within Neo-Concretism. Although this was manifested initially within the pages of newspapers, very quickly poems gained the status of objects in space. Gullar’s poetry can thus be compared to Neo-Concrete art’s transcendence of traditional supports, as it did away with language becoming visual and tactile. Lygia Pape’s series of works, which she categorised as ‘Books’, are closely related to Neo-Concrete poetry given their serial nature, which suggests a type of narrative despite being constituted by different arrangements of forms.

    The Livro dos Caminhos (1963-1976) was initially produced as two large yet independent series of works. The elements within each series are classified according to the structure of a book. There are four elements which the artist entitled ‘preface’, followed by 20 elements entitled ‘body ( ‘miolo’ in Portuguese)’, with a final six elements concluding the work. Each of these 30 elements is formed by a white panel with square section cuboids that protrude from the surface at varying lengths. The cuboids are white with the exception of their frontal surfaces, which are painted black.

    In each element, these protruding cuboids are arranged so that the configuration of heights and positions slowly changes, and differentiation is gradually accumulated. This variability in the position and height of each cuboid suggests some sort of coding, so that if the elements were associated by the artist with pages in a book, the cuboids could be interpreted as words on the page. According to the Projeto Lygia Pape, which since the artist’s death in 2004 is responsible for the preservation of her oeuvre, the order and position in which each element is placed is not pre-determined. This results in a level of interaction and participation, as is often the case with Neo-Concretism. Pape eventually allowed these series to be ‘dismembered’ and denominated each individual element a ‘loose page’.

    Since her death, Pape received a special mention from the jury at the 53rd Venice Bienale. Currently, a major retrospective exhibition on her work titled Magnetized Space is being held at the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid, and in December it will travel to London’s Serpentine Gallery.

  • Artist Biography

    Lygia Pape

    Brazilian • 1927 - 2004

    Lygia Pape's diverse oeuvre includes sculpture, engraving, performance and filmmaking. Along with Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, Pape was a signatory of the Brazilian Neo-Concrete manifesto, which promoted the ideal that art was not a static representation but rather organic and experiential.  

    Pape's oeuvre was greatly informed by the notion that art should be activated by the viewer. This tenant is best represented in the artist's 1959 Livro da Criacão (Book of Creation), in which the artist utilized geometric shapes to create 16 wood constructions, or "pages," with abstract imagery — each signifying a moment in the creation of the world. Each page is accompanied by poetic lyrics and the viewer was encouraged to touch the books and read the poetry aloud.

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Livro dos Caminhos (Book of Paths)

Oil and latex on wood.
39 3/8 x 39 3/8 x 7 7/8 in. (100 x 100 x 20 cm).
Signed on a label affixed to the reverse.

$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $212,500

Latin America

14 & 15 November 2011
New York