LYGIA CLARK (1920-1988)
LYGIA CLARK (1920-1988)
LYGIA CLARK (1920-1988)
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LYGIA CLARK (1920-1988)
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LYGIA CLARK (1920-1988)


LYGIA CLARK (1920-1988)
folded: 7 x 14 1/2 x 1/8 in. (18 x 37 x .31 cm.)
fully extended: 22 1/2 x 26 1/2 x 1/8 in. (57.2 x 67.3 x .31 cm.)
dimensions vary when installed
Executed in 1960.
Signals Gallery, London.
Hans Rasmus Astrup, Oslo (acquired from the above, 1965).
Private collection, New York (acquired from the above through Per Hovdenakk), 1977.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2015.
Post Lot Text
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Cultural Association 'O Mundo de Lygia Clark' and dated 9 June 2022.

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Lot Essay

“This is the name I gave my works of this period, due to their fundamentally organic character,” Clark wrote in 1960 of the Bichos. “And also, the hinge connecting the planes made me think of a dorsal spine” (“1960: The Beasts,” in L. Clark and Y.-A. Bois, “Nostalgia of the Body,” October 69, Summer 1994, p. 97). Articulated metal sculptures, the Bichos (“beasts” or “critters”) mark her transition from painting in two dimensions into the tactile, experiential space of the viewer, in whose hands they come—improvisatorially and, at times, combatively—to life. Active and dialogical objects, the Bichos figured prominently within the Neo-concrete movement, which Clark pioneered alongside Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape, among others, beginning in the late 1950s. Based in Rio de Janeiro, Neo-concretism broke with the concrete-rationalist strictures of Max Bill and São Paulo’s Grupo Ruptura, privileging subjectivity and phenomenological experience through the imaginative deployment of geometric vocabularies.
“The arrangement of the metal plates determines the Bicho’s position, which at first glance seems limitless,” Clark explained. “When I am asked how many movements the Bicho can execute, I reply: ‘I have no idea, nor do you; but the Bicho knows…’” The morphological unpredictability of the Bichos—their resistance to certain movements, the contradictory directions in which their hinges open—dramatizes the interplay between the objects and what Clark called the “spectator-authors” who engage them. “Each Bicho is an organic entity that only reveals itself totally within its internal expressive time,” she continued. “It’s a living organism, an essentially active work. A total, existential integration is established between it and you. A passive attitude is impossible between you and the Bicho, either on its part or on yours. What occurs is a kind of embrace between two living entities. It’s in fact a dialogue through which the Bicho reacts—thanks to its own specific circuit of movements—to the spectator’s stimulus. This relation between the work and the spectator—until now a virtual one—becomes effective” (ibid., p. 97).
“When she starts working in the three-dimensional space, she uses references to the living nature and to the animal world,” notes critic Ferreira Gullar. “This does not take place by chance, as the three-dimensional form is appropriate to the space in which we move. In Lygia’s work there is a nostalgia of the real world, of concrete life, of the space common to everyone…This need to integrate art into life explains the inventing of the Bicho as a work which requires the participation of the spectator for it to be fully realized.” More than a mere metaphor for the animal world, “the Bicho represents an effort by the artist to recover the link with reality and not only the reality of living beings, but also social reality and intercourse—an art of participation,” continues Gullar. “This approximation was made through the Bicho, which metamorphoses, loses its spine in order to gain greater plasticity and changes mobility for a greater adherence to the concrete” (“Lygia Clark’s Trajectory,” Lygia Clark, exh. cat., Fundació Antoni Tapies, Barcelona, 1998, p. 64).
Folded flat, the Bicho appears deceptively inert: perfectly geometric, symmetrical, inanimate. Yet what Clark understood as the spatialization of its planes—their unfolding and folding along numerous hinges—destabilizes any sense of stasis: the Bicho has no definitive shape, no inside or outside, no top or bottom. Its planes and edges, rectilinear and curved, expand and contract in space through the manipulations of its interlocutor. As the distinctions between subject and object break down, the artwork becomes identified, finally, within the (inter)action alone. “The conjunction of your gesture with the immediate response by the Bicho creates a new relationship,” Clark concluded, “and that is possible only as a function of the movement that the Bicho knows how to execute itself: this is the life proper to the Bicho” (“1960: The Beasts,” op. cit., p. 97 and 99).
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

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