Biography

For more than three decades, Lygia Clark (b. 1920, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; d. 1988, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) created works that proposed a radical reassessment of the role and function of art. Primarily working in painting, sculpture, performance and, later, psychoanalytical experiences, Clark intended to break down traditional ideas concerning the artist, artwork and viewer. Her pioneering practice questioned the relationship between art object and spectator, through corporeal and organic forms that encouraged physical encounters and sensorial experiences.

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Clark’s formal training began in Rio de Janeiro in the 1940s where she was taught by Roberto Burle Marx and Zélia Ferreira Salgado, key figures in Brazilian modernism. Her interest in European painting, particularly the work of Paul Klee and Piet Mondrian, led her to Paris (1950–1952) where she made her first oil paintings under the mentorship of Fernand Léger and Árpád Szenes. In 1954, following her return to Brazil, Clark joined the Grupo Frente which enabled her to associate and exhibit with other avant-garde artists, including Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape. By 1959, Clark had played a critical part in establishing Neo-Concretism. This movement had evolved from the prevailing trend of Concrete Art, which favoured precise, geometric forms detached from reality. The Neo-Concretists pursued a more personal form of abstraction, that allowed for sensuality, colour and expression.

During the 1950s, Clark continued to develop her intimate, geometric paintings but was already beginning to question the notion of space. Her preoccupation with creating a dynamic environment was first evident in a series of gouaches titled ‘Planes in Modulated Surface’ (1954–58). In these intimate compositions, forms are placed together at various angles, emphasising the significance of the canvas as a structural component in itself. Clark also started to make architectural models of interior settings that looked like paintings to be entered, indicating her desire to rupture the two-dimensional surface. The artist’s intricate series ‘Estruturas de Caixas de Fósforos’ (Matchbox Structures), created a few years later, resemble models for imaginary modernist buildings. Describing her goals during this period, Clark reflected: ‘What I seek is to compose a space and not compose in it.’ The artist would cease painting by the end of the decade. This important transitional moment was marked in 1959 by an imaginary letter Clark wrote to Mondrian, whose consideration of space and structure had influenced Clark’s own vision. ‘You are more alive today for me than all the people who understand me, up to a point.’

By the early 1960s, Clark’s interest to ‘find an organic space - places that open up to the viewer’ resulted in a series of small metal and wood sculptures. Her Bichos, meaning ‘critters’, revealed hinged plates that could be manipulated into various arrangements. Reminiscent of insect-like creatures, these were the artist’s first wholly participatory works, intended to be realised through physical interaction. ‘It is a living organism’, Clark wrote. ‘What happens is a body-to-body between two living entities.’

In 1963, the artist created Caminhando, a breakthrough work that led Clark from the art object to what she called a ‘proposition’ – an art work, or ‘act’, that would be conceived through action and process - in this case, cutting a twisted cylindrical strip of paper with a pair of scissors. ‘From there on I attribute an absolute importance to the immanent act carried out by the participant […] It allows choice, the unpredictable, and the transformation of a virtuality into a concrete event.’

Clark’s practice would eventually conclude with her abandoning art altogether. Questioning the purpose of conventional works of art, Clark spent the 1970s developing collective activities and ritualised interactions that relied on others, after being invited to teach a course on gestural communication at the Sorbonne, Paris, in 1972. Upon her return to Rio de Janeiro in 1976, Clark devised her own method, termed Estruturacao do self (Structuring of the Self). Informed by items such as plastic bags and balls, these therapeutic tools were used for evolving her artistic processes. This final episode in the artist’s career signals how vital the human body was to her practice overall, and underlines Clark’s belief in the value of art as social practice.

Clark has had solo exhibitions at Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (2020); Tate Modern, London, UK (with Hélio Oiticica, 2020); Alison Jacques Gallery, London, UK (2016); MoMA, New York, US (2014); Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK (2014); and Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, Brazil (2012).

Her work has been included in recent group shows at Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2021); MASP, São Paulo, Brazil (2019); MoMA, New York, US (2019); ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany (2019); Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany (2019); Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia (2018); MAMBA, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2018); Brooklyn Museum, New York, US (2018); and Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, Poland (2017).

Clark’s work is held in the collections of Centre Pompidou Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, US; Museum of Modern Art, New York, US; MAM Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Brazil; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, US; and Tate Modern, London.

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Works

Sem titulo, 1952

Graphite on paper
Unframed: 31.5 x 22.1 cm (12 3/8 x 8 3/4 in); framed: 51.3 x 43.8 cm (20 1/4 x 17 1/4 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Maquete para Interior no. 1, 1955

Wood and oil paint
30.5 x 50 x 18 cm (12 1/8 x 19 3/4 x 7 1/8 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Composição (Composition), 1953

Oil on canvas
80.7 x 116.7 x 2.5 cm (31 3/4 x 46 x 1 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Composiçåo, 1956

Oil on canvas
113.5 x 79.5 cm (44 3/4 x 31 1/4 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Superficie Modulada, 1955-57

Industrial paint on Eucatex
Unframed: 66.5 x 90 cm (26 1/8 x 35 3/8 in); framed: 87 x 110 x 4 cm (34 1/4 x 43 1/4 x 1 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Superficie Modulada, 1956

Graphite and gouache on paper
Unframed: 15.5 x 44.5 cm (6 1/8 x 17 1/2 in); framed: 51.8 x 81.7 x 3.8cm (20 3/8 x 32 1/8 x 1 1/2 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Planos em superfície modulada, 1957

Gouache, graphite and cardboard
Unframed: 25 x 35 cm (9 7/8 x 13 3/4 in); framed: 57.4 x 67.3 x 3.8 cm (22 5/8 x 26 1/2 x 1 1/2 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Planos em superfície modulada, 1957

Cardboard collage
Unframed: 14.4 x 54 cm (5 5/8 x 21 1/4 in); framed: 46.5 x 86.1 cm (18 1/4 x 33 7/8 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Planos em superfície modulada, 1957

Collage, cardboard
Unframed: 20 x 30.2 cm (7 7/8 x 11 7/8 in); framed: 52.5 x 63 cm (20 5/8 x 24 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Espaço Modulado, 1957

Cardboard collage
Unframed: 24.8 x 14.9 cm (9 3/4 x 5 7/8 in); framed: 57.8 x 47.9 cm (22 3/4 x 18 7/8 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Espaço Modulado, 1958

Card and glue
Unframed: 20 x 20 cm (7 7/8 x 7 7/8 in); framed: 39 x 39 x 2 cm (15 3/8 x 15 3/8 x 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Superficie Modulada, 1958/1984

Industrial ink on wood
42 x 63 cm (16 1/2 x 24 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Casulo, 1959

Paint on metal
30 x 30 x 22 cm (11 3/4 x 11 3/4 x 8 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Bicho study, 1960

Adhesive tape, balsa wood and graphite
20.2 x 20.2 cm (8 x 8 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Bicho, 1960–1984

Steel
50 x 45 x 40 cm (19 3/4 x 17 3/4 x 15 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Bicho, 1960

Aluminium
20 x 33 x 18 cm (7 7/8 x 13 x 7 1/8 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Fantastic Architecture no. 1, 1963

Archival collage photograph
15.4 x 11.7 cm (6 1/8 x 4 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Fantastic Architecture 1, 1963–2013

Stainless steel
520 x 780 x 710 cm (204 3/4 x 307 1/8 x 279 1/2 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro.

Estruturas de Caixa de Fósforos, 1964

Gouache paint, matchboxes and glue
5.7 x 8.9 x 5.1 cm (2 1/4 x 3 1/2 x 2 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

Estruturas de Caixa de Fósforos, 1964

Gouache paint, matchboxes, glue
10.2 x 10.2 x 5.1 cm (4 x 4 x 2 in)
Courtesy: © O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

  • Sem titulo, 1952
  • Maquete para Interior no. 1, 1955
  • Composição (Composition), 1953
  • Composiçåo, 1956
  • Superficie Modulada, 1955-57
  • Superficie Modulada, 1956
  • Planos em superfície modulada, 1957
  • Planos em superfície modulada, 1957
  • Planos em superfície modulada, 1957
  • Espaço Modulado, 1957
  • Espaço Modulado, 1958
  • Superficie Modulada, 1958/1984
  • Casulo, 1959
  • Bicho study, 1960
  • Bicho, 1960–1984
  • Bicho, 1960
  • Fantastic Architecture no. 1, 1963
  • Fantastic Architecture 1, 1963–2013
  • Estruturas de Caixa de Fósforos, 1964
  • Estruturas de Caixa de Fósforos, 1964

Press

The Super-Gallerist Putting Women in the Picture

Francesca Gavin, Financial Times

November 2020

Review: Lygia Clark, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Joaquín Jesús Sánchez, Flash Art

May 2020

How Lygia Clark Prefigured the Art World’s Obsession with Interiors

Louise Benson, Elephant

April 2020

How Lygia Clark Transformed Contemporary Art in Brazil and Beyond

Luciano deMarsillac, Artsy

March 2020

A Radical Pioneer of Contemporary Art

Daisy Woodward, AnOther

March 2020

Review: Lygia Clark, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Connie Butler, Artforum

January 2020

The Most Influential Latin American Artists of the 20th Century

Alex Santana, Artsy

November 2019

Ivan Serpa, Lygia Clark and the Bauhaus in Brazil

Adele Nelson, Bauhaus Imaginista

November 2019

Lygia Clark’s Art in London

Catherine Spencer, Apollo

July 2016

Review: Lygia Clark, MoMA

Maika Pollack, Gallerist NY

February 2015

Review: Lygia Clark, MoMA

Rye Holmboe, Apollo

October 2014

Review: Lygia Clark, MoMA

John Angeline, ArtNexus

October 2014

Review: Lygia Clark, MoMA

Daniel Birnbaum, Artforum

October 2014

From Painting to Therapeutic Practice

Julia McCornack and Connie Butler, X-Tra

September 2014

Review: Lygia Clark, MoMA

Clara Lopez, Mousse

August 2014

What You Won’t Find at MoMA’s Lygia Clark Show

Ben Davis, Artnet News

July 2014

Escaping Art’s Boundaries With Lygia Clark’s MoMA Retrospective

Wendy Vogel, Blouin Artinfo

June 2014

Review: Lygia Clark, MoMA

Valery Oisteanu, The Brooklyn Rail

June 2014

Review: Lygia Clark, MoMA

Adrian Searle, The Guardian

May 2014

Lygia Clark’s Many Twists and Turns

Roberta Smith, The New York Times

May 2014

Review: Lygia Clark, MoMA

Anne Doran, Time Out

May 2014

Hands-On Art at the MoMA

Jessica Dawson, The Wall Street Journal

May 2014

Review: Lygia Clark, MoMA

Courtney Fiske, Art in America

February 2014

Body Double

Felipe Scovino, Flash Art

May 2011

Review: Lygia Clark, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Nantes

Vivien Rehberg, frieze

March 2006

In Search of the Body

Guy Brett, Art in America

July 1994

Exhibitions

Lygia Clark: Work From the 1950s

3 June30 July 2016

Lygia Clark: Fantastic Architecture

Henry Moore Foundation, 26 July – 20 December 2014

Books

Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental Field, 1948–1958

Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

2020

Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988

Cornelia H. Butler and Luis Pérez-Oramas

2014

Lygia Clark

Alison Jacques Gallery

2011

Lygia Clark

Réunion des Musées Nationaux

1998

News

Lygia Clark & Veronica Ryan

in ‘Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945’, Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition, UK

Lygia Clark

in ‘The Point of Sculpture’, Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona

Lygia Clark, Sheila Hicks & Lenore Tawney

in ‘Women in Abstraction’, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental Field

Guggenheim Bilbao

Lygia Clark

in ‘Sur Moderno: Journeys of Abstraction’, MoMA, New York

Lygia Clark, Fernanda Gomes, Ana Mendieta & Michelle Stuart

in ‘The Sensation of Space’, The Warehouse, Dallas

Lygia Clark

in ‘Negative Space’, ZKM Karlsruhe

Lygia Clark

in ‘Southern Geometries, from Mexico to Patagonia’, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris

Lygia Clark & Ana Mendieta

in ‘Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985’, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Lygia Clark

in ‘Modern Women and Their Inventions’, Tomie Ohtake Institute, Saõ Paulo

Lygia Clark & Sheila Hicks

in ‘Making Space’, MoMA, New York

Lygia Clark

in ‘Abstract Experiments: Latin American Art on Paper after 1950’, The Art Institute of Chicago

Lygia Clark, Sheila Hicks & Dorothea Tanning

in ‘Making & Unmaking’, Camden Arts Centre, London

Lygia Clark: Organic Planes

Henry Moore Institute, Leeds

Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988

MoMA, New York