Lygia Clark (1920–1988) is one of the preeminent artists of the twentieth century, whose pioneering body of work reimagined the relationship between audience and the art object. A founding member of the 1950s Brazilian Neoconcretist movement, Clark proposed a radical approach to thinking about painting by treating its pictorial surface as if it were a three-dimensional architectural space. Experimenting with modulations of form, color, and plane, her early abstract works harbored compositions that challenged the canvas’s edge and extended the visual field of painting into the physical realm of the viewer. Her iconic Bichos, or sculptures constructed out of hinged metal planes, allowed for the audience to exercise authorship through participation. Clark’s reliance on the viewer to steer her sculptures through many possible configurations not only jeopardized the autonomy of the art object itself, but also reconfigured her art as a performative, time-based event. Shifting her focus towards phenomenology and what would later be termed social practice, she invited her audience to engage with objects that triggered sensations and personal memories, and heightened the viewer’s awareness of self. Throughout her lifetime, Clark would remain a seminal figure of the international avant-garde, impacting future generations of artists with her transformative ideas surrounding the body, its presence, and agency within a given environment.
Retrospective exhibitions dedicated to Lygia Clark’s work include the critically acclaimed exhibition Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art 1948-1988, curated by Connie Butler and Luis Pérez-Oramas, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2014; Lygia Clark: A Retrospective, curated by Felipe Scovino and Paulo Sergio Duarte, at the Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, Brazil in 2012; and Lygia Clark, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona in 1997, which travelled to the Musée d'Art Contemporain, Marseille, France; Serralves Foundation, Porto, Portugal; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium; and the Imperial Palace, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2020 the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum presented Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental Field, 1948 – 1958, a major exhibition focusing on works from the formative years of the artist’s career. Important solo and group exhibitions during Clark’s lifetime include the early São Paulo Biennials (1953-1967); the Second Pilot Show of Kinetic Work, curated by Guy Brett at Signals Gallery, London in 1962; and a presentation, alongside Mira Schendel, at the XXXIV Bienale di Venezia in 1968. Clark’s work is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid; the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Modern Art Rio de Janeiro, among others.