Lygia Clark

Lygia Clark was a contemporary painter and sculptor and founder of the neo-concretist movement in Brazil. She began her artistic studies in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 27, having moved from her hometown of Belo Horizonte to study under the landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. She later spent time studying and teaching in Paris, where she devoted herself to the study of stairs and drawings, and consequently painted her first oil paintings on canvas. After Clark’s first exhibition in Paris, she returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1952 and held an exhibition at the Ministry of Education and Culture.

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Lygia Clark young

 

Lygia Clark was one of the founders of Grupo Frente and throughout her life devoted herself to the study of space and materiality of rythym, joining other artists such as Abraham Palatnik and Rubem Ludolf. Later she presented her works "Modulated Surfaces" and "Planes in Modulated Surface", which resulted from those studies and represented a series of works which required to be free, as if they were walking away from the claustrophobic space of the frame.

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Her experiments with the malleability of hard materials shifted into flexible material over time. Once she left aside hard materials, such as wood, Clark went on to work with more flexible metals, such as aluminum, and produced a series of sculptures called "Bichos". The next transition was to the material rubber which she incorporated into her work “Obra Mole” in 1963. In her project "Caminhando, 1963" Clark breaks up with the notion of an artwork made of materials and begins to use the body as the purpose of her research by exploiting the senses.

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Many observers viewed this shift in focus as extreme and it marked the beginning of a new paradigm in Brazilian visual arts. According to Clark the object was no longer outside the body, but it was in fact the actual "body" or participant that mattered. Clark viewed spectators of art as participants instead of mere observers and believed art necessarily involved the interaction of the participant as key to a work of art, instead of, say, an inanimate canvas nailed to a museum wall.

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Lygia ClarkDue to the clampdown on freedom of expression by the military dictatorship in the 1970s Clark chose to return to Paris where she taught art at the Sorbonne. She returned to Brazil towards the end of her life and immersed herself in the practice of art as a form of psychotherapy. Clark would psychoanalyze individuals suffering from shock and trauma using a physical object as a touchstone for the origin of this trauma. Clark called this form of psychotherapy the “Relational Objects” and would attempt to access the “memory files” of these individuals through their senses and the relation with a specific object.

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Lygia Clark died of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 68. She left behind a complex and interesting legacy that broke outside the traditional boundaries of art to include the mind and actions of the individual and the links between our senses and our emotions. She continues to mystify and engross today.

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