Clark (left) and Fayga Ostrower
Lygia Pimentel Lins
5 October 1920
|Died||25 April 1988 (aged 67)|
|Known for||Painting, Installation art|
Lygia Pimentel Lins (23 October 1920 – 25 April 1988), better known as Lygia Clark, was a Brazilian artist best known for her painting and installation work. She was often associated with the Brazilian Constructivist movements of the mid-20th century and the Tropicalia movement. Along with Brazilian artists Amilcar de Castro, Franz Weissmann, Lygia Pape and poet Ferreira Gullar, Clark co-founded the Neo-Concrete movement. Throughout her career, Clark discovered ways for museum-goers (who would later be referred to as "participants") to interact with her art works. She sought to redefine the relationship between art and society. Clark's works dealt with inner life and feelings.
Clark was born in 1920 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In 1947, she moved to Rio de Janeiro to study with Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx and became an artist. Between 1950 and 1952, she studied with Isaac Dobrinsky, Fernand Léger and Arpad Szenes in Paris. In 1953, she became one of the founding members of Rio's Frente group of artists. In 1957, Clark participated in Rio de Janeiro's first National Concrete Art Exhibition. This would be one of Clark's frequent trips to Brazil in order to exhibit her artwork.
In the first decade of her career, Clark devoted her time to painting and sculpture. After 1966, Clark claimed to have abandoned art. In the early 1970s, she taught art at the Sorbonne. During this time, Clark also explored the idea of sensory perception through her art. Her art became a multisensory experience in which the spectator became an active participant. Between 1979 and 1988, Clark moved more toward art therapy than actually creating new works. She used her art therapy to treat psychotic and mildly disturbed patients. In 1977, Clark returned to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and she died of a heart attack in her home in 1988.
Clark's works were heavily influenced by the Constructivist movement and concepts from the Bauhaus School. Clark's early work reflected her interest in psychoanalysis, including the research of Sigmund Freud. Later in her career, her more holistic works displayed influences from experiences she had with psychotic and neurotic patients. Clark was in therapy herself, and the propositions she was developing explored the frontier between art, therapy, and life.
Tropicália artistic movement
Clark is one of the most established artists associated with the Tropicália movement. Clark explored the role of sensory perception and psychic interaction that participants would have with her artwork. An example of Clark's fascination with human interaction is her 1967 piece O eu e o tu (The I and the You). The piece consists of two industrial rubber suits joined together by an umbilical-like cord. The participants wearing the suits would be joined together but unable to see one another, forming an almost psycho-sexual bond between the two. Clark said of her pieces, "What's important is the act of doing in the present; the artist is dissolved into the world." 
Nostalgia of the Body
In 1964, Clark began her Nostalgia of the Body series with the intention of abandoning the production of art objects in order to create art that was rooted in the senses. The Nostalgia of the Body works relied on participant's individual experiences occurring directly in their bodies. These pieces addressed the simultaneous existence of opposites within the same space: internal and external, metaphorical and literal, male and female.
Art critic Guy Brett observed that Clark "produced many devices to dissolve the visual sense into an awareness of the body."  Clark's later works focused heavily on the unconscious senses: touch, hearing and smell. In her 1966 work, Breathe With Me, Clark formed a rubber tube into a circle and invited participants to hold the tube next to their ear. The participants could hear the sound of air entering and exiting the tube, which produced an individual sensory experience for each participant.
During the early part of Clark's career, she focused on creating small monochromatic paintings which were done in black, gray, and white. During the 1960s, her work became more conceptual and she used soft objects that could be manipulated by the art spectator. Clark later moved on to co-found the Neo-Concrete movement, which was joined by fellow Brazilian Hélio Oiticica. Throughout her career, Clark's art has involved an exploration of art's effect on spectators. One of her primary goals as an artist was to appeal to the average, everyday person, not just the bourgeois crowd.
In the late 1950s, Clark and some of her contemporaries broke away from the Concrete group to start the Neo-Concrete movement. They published their manifesto in 1959. Helio Oiticica would soon join the group in the next year. The Neo-Concretists believed that art was subjective and organic. In Clark’s writings, she articulates that an artwork should not be considered "a ‘machine’ nor an ‘object,’ but rather, an almost-body" which can only be made whole through viewer participation. Clark and Oiticica fused modern European geometric abstraction art with a Brazilian cultural flavor. The Brazilian Neo-Concrete movement borrowed their artistic ideas from Max Bill who was the director of the Ulm School of Design in Germany during the early 1950s. One of the goals of this newest artistic group was to create worldly, modern art as opposed to the provincial style currently popular in Brazil. The Neo-Concretists wanted art to be intuitive, yet expressive and subjective.
The Neo-Concretists were interested in how an artwork could be manipulated by the spectator and that art could be used to "express complex human realities." They sought to create artworks to interact with the spectator and make the spectator more aware of his or her physical body and metaphysical existence. They utilized 3-dimensional moveable figures so that the spectator, in essence, becomes the artist. One example of this kind of artwork is Clark’s Bicho, a movable golden metal object with hinges. Viewer participation was essential for the artwork to be complete. Clark described this exchange between viewer and Bicho as a dialogue between two living organisms. In addition, Neo-Concretists looked to push the limits of what art represented. For them, the art is the actual process of doing, and it is during this interaction that the spectator truly experiences what the artwork means.
After the 1964 Brazilian coup d'état and the military dictatorship that took power in the fallout, a counterculture movement grew in response to the government's increasing scrutiny on the public. At this point in time, Institutional Act Number Five was enacted and artists were forced into exile or fled the country out of fear of persecution. Clark spent these years in Paris where she taught at the Sorbonne, UFR d’Arts Plastiques et Sciences de l’Art de l’Université de Paris 1, a newly founded school remarkable for its open, experimental model in contrast to the more traditional beaux-arts academy format.
During the 1970s, Clark explored the role of sensory perception and psychic interaction that the participants would have with her artwork. She referred to this as "ritual without myth". For Clark, the artwork would have no representative meaning outside of its manipulation by the participants. Participants would take the art objects and fashion them in any way that they pleased. At this point, the line between the participant and artwork would become blurred. The participants would become one with the art piece. In a sense, the participant and artwork would become fused. In the final years of her career, Clark focused solely on psychotherapy and the use of art in healing patients. Clark's objective through her art was to surpass each phase since ideas that were originally considered groundbreaking were outdated with regard to her later works.
Clark's later, more famous works were viewed as "living experiences," a focus she had for three decades of her career. She did not separate the mind from the body and believed that art should be experienced through all five senses. After 1963, Clark's work could no longer exist outside of a participant's experience. Her art became an interactive experience. She believed that a viewer, or "participant", served an active and important function in the art world. In most museums, works are affixed to a stand or on the wall, while Clark's works were meant to be manipulated by the viewer/participant. Her belief was that art should be a multi-sensory experience, not just one enjoyed through the eyes. At one point she wrote "We are the proposers: our proposition is that of dialogue. Alone we do not exist. We are at your mercy," she then went on to say "We are the proposers: we have buried the work of art as such and we call upon you so that thought may survive through your action."
One of her most recognized interactive art pieces is Baba Antropofágica. This piece was inspired by a dream that Clark had about an anonymous substance that streamed out from her mouth. This experience was not a pleasurable one for Clark. She viewed it as the vomiting of a lived experience that, in turn, was swallowed by others. In a sense, Clark seemed to view this atrocity as a way of displaying its freedom. One of Clark's (and for that matter, Oiticica) aims was to create art directed toward a larger world audience, drawing attention toward its social issues thus achieving a sense of cultural freedom. For her interactive art pieces, Clark always used inexpensive everyday objects. These objects would then only have significance if they came into direct contact with a participant's body.
In the latter part of her career, Clark focused more on art therapy and less on the actual creation of a work. When she returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1976, Clark's therapeutic focus rest upon the memory of trauma. When she changed her creative direction in 1971, she wrote "I discovered that the body is the house...and that the more we become aware of it the more we rediscover the body as an unfolding totality." She wanted to uncover why the power of certain objects brought about a vivid memory in her psychotherapy patients so that she could treat their psychosis. Depending upon the individual, the sessions could be short-term or long-term, in which treatment came about through the relationship between the relationship object and how the participant interpreted its meaning.
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- 1959 - Bienal, São Paulo
- 1960 - Venice Biennale, Venice
- 1960 - Konkrete Kunst, Zürich
- 1961 - Bienal, São Paulo
- 1962 - Venice Biennale, Venice
- 1963 - Bienal, São Paulo
- 1964 - Signals Gallery, London
- 1964 - Mouvement II, Paris
- 1965 - Signals Gallery, London
- 1965 - Paco Imperial, Rio de Janeiro
- 1967 - Bienal, São Paulo
- 1968 - Retrospective, Venice Biennale, Venice
- 1986 - Retrospective (with Hélio Oiticica), Paço Imperial, Rio de Janeiro
- 1987 - Retrospective, Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo
- 1997 - Documenta, Kassel
- 2000 - Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
- 2001 - Experiment Experiência: Art in Brazil 1958-2000, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford
- 2001 - Brazil: Body and Soul, New York, Guggenheim Museum
- 2001 - 7th International Istanbul Biennial – Sala especial, Istanbul
- 2002 - Brazil: Body and Soul, Guggenheim Museum, New York
- 2003 - Pulse: Art, Healing and Transformation, ICA, Boston,
- 2004 - Pensamento Mudo, Dan Galeria
- 2004 - Artists' Favourites, ICA - London
- 2005 - 50 Jahre/Years DOCUMENTA: 1955-2005, Kunsthalle Fridericiaum Kassel
- 2005 - Lygia Clark, da obra ao acontecimento: somos o molde, a você cabe o sopro..., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes
- 2005 - Tropicália: a revolution in Brazilian Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
- 2006 - Barbican, London
- 2006 - Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, SP, Brasil
- 2006-07 - Bronx Museum of the Art, New York
- 2007 - WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, MOCA, Los Angeles
- 2010 - elles@centrepompidou, the Pompidou Centre, Paris
- 2014 - Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art 1948-1988, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Clark's work is held in collections worldwide including MoMA, New York, Tate Modern, London, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; MAM, Rio de Janeiro, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid and Centre Pompidou, Paris.[better source needed]
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- Gullar, Ferreira. "Neo-Concrete Manifesto." History of Modern Latin American Art Course Reader. Spokane: Whitworth University, 2014.
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- Wiebe, Mariianne Mays (December 2014 – February 2015). "Lygia Clark". Border Crossings. 33 (4): 110–111. ISSN 0831-2559 – via ProQuest.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
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