In a 1965 statement entitled ‘Art, Religiosity, Space-Time’, the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark asserted: ‘Art is not bourgeois mystification. What has changed is the form of communicating the proposition. It’s you who now give expression to my thoughts, to draw from them whatever vital experience you want.’ The works gathered at Alison Jacques Gallery predate this statement, ranging from 1951 to 1959, but even at this stage, when Clark used traditional materials like paint, gouache and graphite, her works evince the spirit of experimentation that would infuse her later participatory and sensorial collaborations.
The drawings and paintings on display in ‘Lygia Clark: Works from the 1950s’ both emerged from, and directly contributed to, the socio-cultural dynamism of 1950s Brazil. This decade saw the country’s capital change from Rio de Janeiro to the new planned city of Brasilia, its gleaming modernist buildings rising from what had been an empty plain in the heart of Brazil during a mere four years of rapid construction from 1956 and 1960. Artistically, it was a period of intense and sometimes short-lived, but stimulating allegiances, groups and manifestos. Clark participated in Grupo Frente, a collection of artists who engaged with European constructivism, but increasingly embraced colour, dynamism and vitality. By the end of the decade, Clark was ready to sign her name to the 1959 neo-concrete manifesto, which marked a definitive break with the mathematical geometries of concrete art and prioritised physical experiences.
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