The Museum of Modern Art announces a major retrospective devoted to the art of Lygia Clark (Brazilian, 1920–1988), the first comprehensive exhibition in North America of her work, from May 10 through August 24, 2014. Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988 comprises nearly 300 works, ranging from the early 1950s to the early 1980s, including drawings, paintings, sculptures, and participatory works.
Drawn from public and private collections, including MoMA’s own, this survey is organized around three key themes: abstraction, Neo-Concretism, and the “abandonment” of art. Each of these axes anchors a significant concept or a constellation of works that mark a definitive step in Clark’s career. While Clark’s legacy in Brazil is profound, this exhibition draws international attention to her work. By bringing together all parts of her radical production, the exhibition seeks to reinscribe her into current discourses of abstraction, participation, and a therapeutic art practice.
From her earliest production, Clark’s work was in dialogue with landmark predecessors of modern geometric abstraction, including Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, Vladimir Tatlin, Max Bill, and Georges Vantongerloo. This first group of Clark’s paintings and graphic works (1948– 59) underscores the breaking of the flat surface and points towards athree-dimensional mode of abstraction. The first section of the exhibition deals with Clark’s discovery of what she called the “organic line,” an opening of conceptual—and eventuallyactual—space within the surface of her work that led her from early abstract compositions(1952–53) to the series of multilayered, painting-like compositions known as Superfícies moduladas (Modulated Surfaces), Planos em superfícies moduladas (Planes in Modulated Surfaces) and Espaços modulados (Modulated Spaces) (1956–58).
The period embraced by the Neo-Concrete moment (1959–66) includes most of the final “formal” works done by Clark when she was identified as a Neo-Constructivist artist. For Clark, Neo-Concretism initiated an investigation that led her to a practice beyond the limits of conventional artistic forms. The conception of the elasticity of space materializes later in her repertoire of sculptural forms. The selection of works in this second section comprises her series Bichos (Critters/Animals) (1960–63), Abrigos poéticos (Poetic Shelters) (1964), and Trepantes (Grubs) (1965). Two key works from the Trepantes series—O Dentro é o fora (The Inside Is the Outside) (1963) and O Antes é o depois (The Before Is the After)(1963)—and her first quasi- performative work, Caminhando (Walking) (1963), are featured.
Between 1966 and 1988, a period that coincided with a personal crisis and subsequent long period of exile in Europe, Clark achieved a radical conclusion to the concepts and practices that she had confronted during the 1960s. During this period she delved into new forms of collective action and therapeutic practice with the help of her objects and creations, which would prepare the body for the analysis of the mind. Clark did produce some objects during this period for artistic contexts and for events that were framed within the “art world,” including her landmark installation A Casa é o corpo (The House is the Body), created for the Venice Biennale in 1968.
However, the ultimate conclusion of her research drove her to profoundly question the status and utility of conventional works of art as means of expression. Claiming to abandon art making, she created a practice using materials applied directly to the body, engaging with her subjects in a very direct way. Among the propositions, as she called them, featured in this last chapter of the exhibition are works generally considered “biological architectures” and other experiential or “relational objects” from the early 1970s, which are shown here alongside original and replica devices that Clark conceived in order to allow the audience to approach relational experiences. It is only now, after her death, that this last chapter may be read in terms of the histories of happenings, performance, and public engagement as a radical form of art making.
Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988 is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, the most comprehensive volume on the artist available in English, with essays by Sergio Bessa, Connie Butler, Eleonora Fabião, Briony Fer, Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães,André Lepecki, Zeuler Lima, Christine Macel, Frederico de Oliveira Coelho, and Luis Pérez-Oramas. Each section is accompanied by a selection of works that provide context for understanding the circumstances that shaped her artistic investigations. Featuring a significant selection of Clark’s previously unpublished personal writings, this is a vital source of primary documentation for 20th- century art history scholarship.
Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988 is organized by LuisPérez-Oramas, The Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art, MoMA; and Connie Butler, Chief Curator, Hammer Museum; with Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães and Beatriz Rabelo Olivetti, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Drawings and Prints, MoMA.
Major support for the exhibition is provided by Ricardo and Susana Steinbruch, The Modern Women’s Fund, and by Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley. Additional funding is provided by Roberto and Aimée Servitje and by the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund. Research and travel support was provided by the Patricia Cisneros Travel Fund for Latin America and by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.