Lygia Pape

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Lygia Pape
Born7 April 1927
Nova Friburgo, Brazil
Died3 May 2004(2004-05-03) (aged 77)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Known forSculpture, engraving, film
Notable workTecelares [Weavings] (1959), Livro da Criacao [Book of Creation] (1959), Ttéias [Web] (1979)
MovementConcrete art and Neo-Concrete Movement

Lygia Pape (7 April 1927 – 3 May 2004) was a prominent Brazilian visual artist, sculptor, engraver, and filmmaker, who was a key figure in the Concrete movement and a later co-founder of the Neo-Concrete Movement in Brazil during the 1950s and 1960s.[1] Along with Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, she was a formative artist in the expansion of contemporary art in Brazil and pushed geometric art to include aspects of interaction and to engage with ethical and political themes.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Lygia Pape was born on April 7, 1927 in Nova Friburgo, Brazil.[1] She received an informal training in fine arts, and studied with Fayga Ostrower at the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro.[3]

Concrete Art[edit]

By the age of 20, Lygia Pape had joined the concrete art movement. The term "concrete art" was coined by the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg in 1930.[4] Concrete art intended to defend the objectivity of art though paintings that "have no other significance than [themselves]."[5] It forbade the use of natural forms, lyricism, and sentiment.[5]

In Brazil, the Concrete art movement first appeared after the São Paulo Bienal in 1951.[2] The Bienal inspired the formation of two Brazilian Concrete art groups: the Ruptura, based in São Paulo, and the Grupo Frente, based in Rio de Janeiro.[2] Pape was a member of the Grupo Frente, which was founded by artist Ivan Serpa in 1954.[6] Though the Grupo Frente artists were loosely united by their interest in the geometric style, they were united by their rejection of figuration and earlier nationalist Brazilian art.[6] Other artists involved in the movement included Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica.[6]

The Tecelares Series[edit]

In the 1950s, Pape created her Tecelares Series. 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.[7] In Tecelares, Lygia Pape used "weaving" as a metaphor to evoke handiwork and a connection to Brazil's traditional and indigenous culture.[7] Pape spoke of how indigenous Brazilian cultures had used geometry to express fundamental concepts, like the concept of collective identity.[7] Thus, for Lygia Pape, geometry didn’t represent industry or mechanization, but rather it expressed a transcendent idiom.[7] Instead of using a gridded and rigid composition, Pape blended natural and organic patterns with incised lines that are intertwined to "warp and weft."[7] 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."[7]

"Sem Titulo [Untitled]" (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.[7]

"Sem Titulo [Untitled]" (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.[7]

Neo-Concrete Movement[edit]

After her involvement with the Grupo Frente Concrete artists, Lygia Pape transitioned into the short wave of Neo-Concrete art. In 1959 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. It is through the presence and participation of the viewer that the artwork becomes complete.

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]

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.[11]

Pape specifically during her Neo-Concrete period was interested in the “proposal to ‘live the body.’”[12] This phrase indicates Pape’s interest in how the physical body acts as our mediator for all sensual experiences. Pape sought to explore this idea of the body’s relation in space by creating multi-sensorial experiences in her artwork.[12]

"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.[7] 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.[7]

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."[7]

Later Career[edit]

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.[13] 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.

From 1972 to 1985, 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. In 1980 she received a masters degree in philosophy from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.[1]

The Ttéias series[edit]

Of all of Pape's works, Ttéias (1979) is perhaps most emblematic of her artistic process.[2] The Ttéias was first conceived in 1979, but it was not until the 1990s that it was produced in full scale.[2] Pape invented the word "Ttéias", which is a pun based on the Portuguese word for "web" ("teia") and for "a person or thing of grace" ("teteia").[14] This series consists of an immersive staging of semi-transparent prisms, which were created using gold thread.[15] Some 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 spatial diagram created by Ttéias (1979) is very similar to the sense of space and movement created in her earlier Tecelares series woodprints. Like Tecelares, the lines of Ttéias (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 Ttéias (1979) were intended not only to create volume, but to draw lines that are nearly invisible.[2] 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 spatial relationship between the viewer and the work itself. The spectacular shimmering lines of Ttéias(1979) and the effect they produce in the viewers has been compared in lightness and weight to cathedrals.[2]


Pape died on 3 May 2004 in Rio de Janeiro at age of 77.[1]

Select Exhibitions[edit]

Art market and estate[edit]

Pape did not work with a commercial gallery until later in life.[22]

Projeto Lygia Pape, the artist’s estate, was founded by the artist before her death in 2004 and is administered by her daughter Paula Pape.[23] Alison Jacques Gallery represented the estate between 2010 and 2016.[24] Since 2016, it has been working with Hauser & Wirth.[25] In 2017, Paula Pape filed a suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against LG Electronics, several vendors of its mobile phones and Getty Images Korea alleging an infringement of copyright of her mother’s 2003 sculpture TtEia 1, C in packaging materials, advertising and promotions for the K20 V mobile phone.[26]


  1. ^ a b c d Johnson, Ken (16 May 2004). "Lygia Pape, a Brazilian Artist Of Concrete Reality, Dies at 77". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Cocchiarale, Fernando. "Between the Eye and the Spirit: Lygia Pape and the Renewal of Brazilian Art". Projeto Lygia Pape. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  3. ^ "Artist - Lygia Pape", Serpentine Galleries, Retrieved online 21 October 2018.
  4. ^ Ramirez, Mari Carmen (2004). Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America. Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts. p. 204. ISBN 0300102690.
  5. ^ a b "Concrete Art". Oxford Art Online. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "Grupo Frente", Tate, Retrieved online 21 October 2018.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Basilio, Miriam (2004). Latin American & Caribbean Art: MoMA at El Museo. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. pp. 103–117. ISBN 0870704605.
  9. ^ a b Gullar, Ferreira (1959). Neo-Concrete Manifesto.
  10. ^ a b Barnitz, Jacqueline (2001). Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 215–220. ISBN 0292708572.
  11. ^ a b Rebollo Goncalvez, Lisbeth. “The Poetic Space by Lygia Pape.” ‘’Art Nexus’’ 10.81 (2011): 44-48.
  12. ^ Bowron, Astrid (2001). Experiment: Art in Brazil 1958-2000. Oxford: Museum of Modern Art. pp. 92–99. ISBN 1901352137.
  13. ^ "Lygia Pape", Moderna Museet, Retrieved online 21 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Lygia Pape", Hauser & Wirth, Retrieved online 22 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Artur Barrio, Antonio Manuel, Lygia Pape", Fundação de Serralves, Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Brazil: Body and Soul", Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  17. ^ "Making Worlds", Retrieved online 24 October 2018.
  18. ^ Lygia Pape: Magnetized Space at the Serpentine Galleries 2011
  19. ^ "Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms", The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Lygia Pape: Ttéia 1, C", Moderna Museet, Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  21. ^ Chris Dolmetsch and Katya Kazakina (July 19, 2017), Brazilian Artist's Daughter Claims LG Stole Images for Phone Ads Bloomberg News.
  22. ^ Sarah P. Hanson (July 21, 2017), Lygia Pape's daughter sues LG Electronics over cellphone wallpaper The Art Newspaper.
  23. ^ Jane Morris (September 13, 2016), Can foreign collectors and museums sustain Brazil’s art market? The Art Newspaper.
  24. ^ Hauser & Wirth Announces Worldwide Representation of Lygia Pape (1927 – 2004) Hauser & Wirth.
  25. ^ Sarah P. Hanson (July 21, 2017), Lygia Pape's daughter sues LG Electronics over cellphone wallpaper The Art Newspaper.

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