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A pioneer in abstraction, Lygia Clark (b. 1920, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; d. 1988, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) was a major artist of the second half of the twentieth century. Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental Field, 1948–1958 presents a reexamination of Clark’s crucial formative years from 1948 to 1958, when she was experimenting between figuration and abstraction to articulate the compelling visual language that defined her mature production. Along with a pertinent representation of her early figurative work, this exhibition assembles paintings from major series created during this early period to provide a fundamental overview of the first decade of Clark’s artistic career.

Viewing painting as an “experimental field,” a phrase from a keynote lecture given by the artist in 1956, Clark sought to redefine the medium by pushing the boundaries of traditional painting. Dedicating herself to art without formal training, she embedded herself within the artistic milieu of Rio de Janeiro in the late 1940s and participated in seminal artistic movements, such as Concrete art and geometric abstraction, throughout the 1950s. This focused exhibition traces Clark’s artistic evolution in three structured historical sections: “The Early Years, 1948–1952;” “Geometric Abstraction, 1953–1956;” and “Variation of Form: Modulating Space, 1957–1958.” Each chapter addresses Clark’s most significant ideas and provides an in-depth representation of her artistic development through a concise selection of works.

This presentation of Lygia Clark’s early practice debuts on the centenary anniversary of the artist’s birth, bringing a renewed attention at an international level to a significant postwar Latin American female artist. The museum is thankful to the Lygia Clark Cultural Association, Rio de Janeiro, and the artist’s heirs for their tremendous support of the exhibition.

Curator: Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães

Lygia Clark
The Violoncellist (O Violoncelista), 1951
Oil on canvas, 105.5 x 81 cm
Private Collection
© Courtesy of “The World of Lygia Clark” Cultural Association

Following its presentation at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the exhibition will travel to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice from June 27 through September 28, 2020.

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

Lygia Clark was born in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil in 1920 and received informal artistic training in the late 1940s by Brazilian artists Roberto Burle Marx and Zélia Ferreira Salgado in Rio de Janeiro. By 1950 she traveled to Paris to continue her artistic training with modern masters Fernand Léger and Árpád Szènes. She held her first exhibition, L. Clark-Ribeiro (1952), at the Institut Endoplastique, Paris, where she exhibited her early experiments with abstraction and constructive forms in two-dimensional works. Upon her return to Brazil later that year, she held her first solo show, Lygia Clark 1950-1952, at the Ministério da Educação, Rio de Janeiro. Recognized as an emerging artist, Clark began to participate in important regional group exhibitions, including the first Exposição Nacional de Arte Abstrata (1953) and the Bienal de São Paulo (1953).

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From Europe to Latin America

In Europe, abstraction was one of the languages chosen by artists in the first decades of the 20th century in their quest for a more modern and universal art.
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Beyond painting

In the 1960s, after Lygia Clark’s early investigations of space in painting, she created her innovative series titled Critters (Bichos)
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Art as mediator

As a form of rehabilitation for her broken wrist after a car accident in 1966, Clark devised her first sensory object, Stone and Air (Pedra e ar).
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Between Art and Therapy

After 1970, in her quest to expand the horizons of art and grant greater centrality to the body, Clark’s interest in psychoanalysis deepened.
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Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental, 1948–1958
Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental, 1948–1958 presents a reexamination of Clark’s crucial formative years. In this volume, readers can delve into the artist’s production from this period, when Clark was experimenting between figuration and abstraction to articulate a language that defined her mature works. The essays by Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães—curator of the exhibition—, Adele Nelson, and Paulo Miyada, as well as a chronology compiled by Julia M. Vázquez and selected bibliography offer an overview of the first decade of Clark’s artistic career.
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