Lygia Clark

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Lygia Clark (1920 – 1988) was a visual artist, sculptor, performance artist, therapist, and a leading protagonist of the Brazilian avant-garde. She began her career researching spatial relations on the level of the image, gradually drawing away from means of expression that focused on the division among artist, work and audience. Her works went on to become a training exercise of sorts for releasing the senses and creating new ways of experiencing other people and the reality they thrive in. She referred to the resulting process as “nostalgia for the body”. She gathered her materials from the everyday. In creating the Borrachas sculpture series, she made use of sliced strips of rubber used in tire manufacturing. For Clark, similarly to Hélio Oiticica, the turn towards the mundane had a political significance – it was meant to question the character of the museum as an elite institution. Later in her life, Clark put an even greater focus on experiments that undermined the visual element in the process of experiencing art. She created masks and costumes that she called “relational objects” (i.e. Sensorial Masks, The I and the You), which rendered the participant without sight for a time, pushing him or her to use the other senses. A key element of these pursuits was not only the widening of boundaries for individual experiences, but also the broadening of non-verbal communication. The increasingly oppressive regime of the military junta forced Clark out of the country for several years. She settled in Paris, where she began lecturing on art at the Sorbonne. Her seminars often took the form of controversial performances. In Baba Antropofágica, a group of people surrounds an individual laying on the ground and spit bits of yarn on that person, gradually covering the entire figure. The action was inspired by a dream of hers and was adopted to the artist as a symbol of the act of sharing a trauma. Once she was able to return to Brazil, Clark dedicated herself to art therapy, working with people affected by psychosis and depression. At the time, many critics assumed she’d abandoned art in favour of psychotherapy, but as Clark herself saw it, she was making use of the great therapeutic potential of art. (Source)


  • Lygia Clark, Lygia Clark, Rio de Janeiro: Funarto, 1980, 60 pp. With texts by Ferreira Gullar, Mário Pedrosa, and Lygia Clark. (Brazilian Portuguese)
  • Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, Cartas, 1964-1974, ed. & intro. Luciano Figueiredo, Rio de Janeiro: UFRJ, 1996; 2nd ed., 1998, 264 pp. (Brazilian Portuguese)


  • Lygia Clark: The Abandonment Of Art, 1948-1988, eds. Cornelia Butler and Luis Pérez-Oramas, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2014, 336 pp. With essays by Sergio Bessa, Eleonora Fabião, Briony Fer, Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães, André Lepecki, Zeuler Lima, Christine Macel, and Frederico de Oliveira Coelho. [1] (English)


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