Lygia Pape

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Lygia Pape
Born April 7, 1927
Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro
Died May 3, 2004
Rio de Janeiro
Nationality Brazilian
Known for sculpture, engraving, film making
Notable work(s) Tecelares [Weavings] (1959), Livro da Criacao [Book of Creation] (1959), TtEias [Web] (1979)
Movement Concrete and Neo-concrete
Website
http://www.lygiapape.org.br

Lygia Pape (7 April 1927 – 3 May 2004) was born in Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Lygia Pape worked in sculpture, engraving, and filmmaking. She was an influential Brazilian artist, active in both the Concrete and Neo-Concrete movements in Brazil during the 1950s and 1960s. Later on in the 1960s and 1970s, Pape produced more videos and installations using sarcastic and critical metaphors against the Brazilian dictatorship. From the 1980s onward, these metaphors became more subtle.[1] Her artwork seems to have worked as a vehicle for existential, sensorial, and psychological life experiences, much of it based in geometry and relying on both the intellectual and physical participation of the viewer.

In explaining her approach, Lygia Pape said "My concern is always invention. I always want to invent a new language that's different for me and for others, too... I want to discover new things. Because, to me, art is a way of knowing the world... to see how the world is... of getting to know the world." [2]

Life[edit]

Along with Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, she sought to expand the territory of contemporary art to include aspects of interaction, though, like the Concretists, she remained opposed to any kind of representation in art. Whereas Lygia Clark's art took her towards sensorial interaction and Helio Oiticia's works led him to the spatial and social existence of the marginalized, Lygia Pape's contribution to art synthesized the aesthetic, ethical, and political spheres.[3]

From 1972 to 1985, Lygia Pape taught semiotics at the School of Architecture at the Universidade Santa Úrsula in Rio de Janeiro, and was appointed professor in the School of Fine Arts of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in 1983 as well.

Lygia Pape died on 3 May 2004 in Rio de Janeiro at age of 77.[4]

Concrete Art[edit]

By the age of 20, Lygia Pape had joined the concrete art movement. The term "concrete art" is attributed to Theo van Doesburg, who founded the name in 1930.[5] Concrete art intended to defend the objectivity of art though paintings that "have no other significance than [themselves]."[6] It forbade the use of natural forms, lyricism and sentiment.[6] Concrete art movement first appeared in Brazil after the São Paulo Bienal in 1951. The Bienal inspired the formation of two Brazilian Concrete art groups: the Ruptura, based in São Paulo, and the Frente, based in Rio de Janeiro. The Ruptura had rigid theories of painting and emphasized the two-dimensionality of the support (often metal), the use of glossy enamel over traditional oil paints, modularity, and rationality over expression. Their counterpart was the Frente artists, which had a less rigid approach to Concrete art. In the mid to late 1950s, the Ruptura group and the Frente group clashed when the Ruptura artists accused those in the Frente Group of valuing experience over theory and embracing experimentation, expressiveness, and subjectivity.[7] In 1959, the Rio artists, including Lygia Pape, broke away from the rigidity of Concrete art and formed a Neo-concrete group.

Neo-concrete Art[edit]

After her involvement with the Frente Concrete artists, Lygia Pape transitioned into the short wave of Neo-concrete art. Pape was a signatory of the Neo-concrete Manifesto, along with Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica.[8] The Neo-Concretists believed that art represented more than the materials used to create, but that it also transcended these "mechanical relationships".[9] The manifesto claimed that art does not just occupy mechanical space, but it "transcends it to become something new." [9] Neo-concrete artists aimed to create a new expressive space in which an artwork is a living being to have a relationship with and to experience through the senses. Thus, Neo-concrete artworks usually required the viewer's active participation.

The Neo-concrete artists did not totally reject Concrete art. Concrete art remained the basis of Neo-concrete art, but it was reformulated. Neo-concrete artists adapted concrete art's geometric shapes and transformed them into organic three-dimensional objects to be manipulated by participants and to be experienced sensorially.[10] The works intended to counteract the urban alienation created by a modern society and integrate both the intellect and the physical body for meditative experiences.[10]

Selected Artworks[edit]

"The Tecelares Series"[edit]

The series was produced over the course of half a decade and represents Lygia Pape's transition from Concrete art in the late 1950s to Neo-concrete art in the early 1960s. The Tecelares wood prints were originally seen purely as works of Concrete art because of their precise and geometric aesthetic. The woodblock prints are minimalistic; they feature planes of black ink and thin lines that reveal the white rice paper underneath. The production of the series seems straightforward: Pape incised the entire surface of the woodblock with thin lines, adding several non-orthogonal lines to create the appearance of distinct planes and the suggestion of movement and space in a work that would be otherwise flat and static.[11] In Tecelares, Lygia Pape used "weaving" as a metaphor to evoke handiwork and a connection to Brazil's traditional and indigenous culture.[11] Pape spoke of how indigenous Brazilian cultures had used geometry to express fundamental concepts, like the concept of collective identity.[11] THus, for Lygia Pape, geometry didn’t represent industry or mechanization, but rather it expressed a transcendent idiom.[11] Instead of using a gridded and rigid composition, Pape blended natural and organic patterns with incised lines that are intertwined to "warp and weft." [11] Pape used simple materials, crafted minimally by her own hands to incorporate expression into a work that is not expressionistic. In so doing, the vitality of the materials surface, as do the "relationships of the open and closed space, the sensitive and non-discursive thing."[11]

"Sem Titulo [Untitled]", from the series Tecelares [Weavings], (1959)[edit]

This 1959 artwork in the Tecelares series, takes the same woodblock carving technique and is incised by thin parallel lines which are disrupted by the non-orthogonal lines that cut across the print. The two horizontally oriented lines that cut across the print break up the continuity of the parallel lines, creating the illusion of a separate plain and thus, space.

Although Pape used a ruled edge and a compass to create the lines in Sem Título [ Untitled] (1959), there are slight variations in the width of the lines, revealing that a hand rather than a machine made the forms. Additionally, the rice paper's delicacy had absorbed the ink, creating imprecise edges. The black ink of the woodprint's background also reveals the natural wood grain of the block print as one can see the porous marks of the wood between the incised lines on the print. So despite the woodprint's originally Concrete identity, Sem Título [Untitled] (1959), is now understood as a transitional piece from the Concrete movement into the Neo-Concrete, as it is infused with non-mechanical and "handmade" qualities that seem more expressive than mechanistic.[11]

"Sem Titulo [Untitled]" from the series Tecelares [Weavings] (1960)[edit]

The 1960s version of Tecelares is even more organic and expressive than the earlier 1959 version. The print shows the grain of the woodblock even more overtly in the bottom portion of the print, while the top portion remains relatively muted. As in the other prints in this series, Sem Título [Untitled] (1960) is cut by diagonal lines that disrupt the continuity of the horizontal wood grain pattern, creating movement and distinct planes in the artwork, though they are considerably more subtle than the 1959 Sem Título [Untitled] print of the same series. Also similar to the 1959 print, the 1960 print has the same imprecise quality created by the feathering of the ink on the rice paper. It also has a very organic quality, which is produced through the patterns and swirls of the wood grain. Because of this organic pattern, this print seems to overtly oppose the mechanic properties associated with Concrete art.[11]

"Livro da Criacao [Book of Creation]", (1959)[edit]

The sculpture/book/poem Livro da Criacao [Book of Creation] is emblematic of the early Neo-Concrete works. The work consists of sixteen unbound cardboard "pages." The pages are 12 x 12 inches each and feature abstract images that are supposed to signify a significant moment in the creation of the world, such as the recession of water, the discovery of fire and agriculture, hunting, and navigation.[11] Each page is additionally accompanied by a title that gives sequence and meaning to the book. However, many of these titles function more as poetic lyrics, making the interpretation of each page difficult and the sequencing hard to follow.

The viewer is meant to participate with the artwork, manipulating the book and interacting with the pages up close. As the viewer handles and assembles each page, he or she is meant to interpret the lyrics and project their interpretation onto the abstract page. The participant's perception of the abstract page is meant to shift after he or she reads the accompanying lyric and projects it onto the abstract page. Thus, the idea of creation is twofold: the book itself is a narrative of the creation of the world, but it also narrates the creative process of the participant as he or she unfolds the meaning of the work.[11]

As a Neo-concrete artist, Lygia Pape's Livro da Criacao [Book of Creation] synthesizes reason and emotion. The participant is meant to have a phenomenological experience by handling the book. Each reading of the work might be different based on the individual's experiences. As Lygia Pape noted, "It's important to say that there are two plausible readings: for me it is the book of the creation of the world, but for others it can be the book of "creation." Through each person's experiences, there is a process of open structure through which each structure can generate its own reading."[11]

"TtEias [Web]" (1979)[edit]

Of all of Pape's works, TtEias (1979) is perhaps most emblematic of her artistic process.[3] The TtEias was first conceived in 1979, but it was not until the 1990s that is was produced in full scale.[3] The artwork consists of nine semi-transparent prisms, which were created using gold thread. A square platform drilled with nails serves as the base of each prism. The gold thread is then wrapped around each protruding nail, from floor to ceiling, to create the prism. Light is shined onto the prisms at various angles, emphasizing the metallic sheen of the thread. The exhibition space is otherwise dark, giving the allusion that the prisms continue infinitely upwards.

The spacial diagram created by TtEias (1979) is very similar to the sense of space and movement created in her earlier Tecelares series woodprints. Like Tecelares, the lines of TtEias (1979)are made with simple materials, include geometric shapes, and create movement through the intersection of lines and the creation of space. So too, there is a human element in the use of materials and the production of the work, in which each thread is pulled taut from floor to ceiling by hand.

The TtEias (1979) were intended not only to create volume, but to draw lines that are nearly invisible.[3] True to Neo-concrete art, there is a relationship between the viewer and the art as the lighting of the prisms changes according to the viewer's position in the exhibition space, accentuating the spacial relationship between the viewer and the work itself. The spectacular shimmering lines of TtEias(1979) and the effect they produce in the viewers has been compared in lightness and weight to cathedrals.[3]

Exhibitions[edit]

  • 2011 Serpentine Gallery London
  • 2011 Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
  • 2009 53. Biennale di Venezia
  • 2009 Folder Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • 2008 Kunsthalle Kiel
  • 2008 Contemporary Brazilian Art Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
  • 2008 Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro
  • 2008 Moderna Museet Stockholm
  • 2007 Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo
  • 2007 Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro
  • 2006 Bronx Museum of the Arts
  • 2006 Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo
  • 2006 Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro
  • 2006 1 Galeria Graca Brandao, Porto
  • 2006 Barbican Centre, London
  • 2005 Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
  • 2005 Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki
  • 2005 Quarter, Florence
  • 2005 Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen
  • 2004 Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo
  • 2004 Haus der Kunst, Munich
  • 2004 Le Magasin, Grenoble
  • 2003 Galerie der Stadt Sindelfingen
  • 2003 50. Biennale di Venezia
  • 2003 Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo
  • 2002 steirischer herbst, Graz
  • 2002 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • 2000 CAMJAP Lisbon
  • 2000 Museu Serralves, Porto
  • 1998 Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bowron, Astrid (2001). Experiment: Art in Brazil 1958-2000. Oxford: Museum of Modern Art. pp. 92–99. ISBN 1901352137. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Cocchiarale, Fernando. "Between the Eye and the Spirit: Lygia Pape and the Renewal of Brazilian Art". Projeto Lygia Pape. Retrieved April 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Ken (May 16, 2004). "Lygia Pape, a Brazilian Artist Of Concrete Reality, Dies at 77". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Ramirez, Mari Carmen (2004). Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America. Houston: The Museum of Fina Arts. p. 204. ISBN 0300102690. 
  5. ^ a b "Concrete Art". Oxford Art Online. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  6. ^ Zelevansky, Lynn (2004). Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form, 1940s-70s. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum. pp. 19–23. ISBN 0262240475. 
  7. ^ Basilio, Miriam (2004). Latin American & Caribbean Art: MoMA at El Museo. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. pp. 103–117. ISBN 0870704605. 
  8. ^ a b Gullar, Ferreira (1959). Neo-Concrete Manifesto. 
  9. ^ a b Barnitz, Jacqueline (2001). Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 215–220. ISBN 0292708572. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Perez-Barreiro, Gabriel (2007). The Geometry of Hope. Austin, Texas: Blanton Museum of Art and Fundacion Cisneros. ISBN 9780977145362. 

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