Monday, 21 December 2015

Lygia Clark at MoMA review – playing cat's cradle at the edge of art

Knowing that I am in the process of writing my dissertation, (its working title is An exploration of play in contemporary art), I was sent a link to Adrian Searle's review of the Lygia Clark retrospective at MoMA in The Guardian

It mentions some of the things that are included in my dissertation such as the relationship between audience interaction/participation and play

Lygia Clark at MoMA review – playing cat's cradle at the edge of art

"The Brazilian artist, who died in 1988, was a complex figure, and her life and art followed a convoluted trajectory. It took her from being a painter and leading figure in the Brazilian neo-concretist movement, an offshoot of European constructivism, to becoming a maker of abstract sculptures that were as much propositions as fixed objects. These wonderful plays between the organic and the geometric, between form and formlessness eventually led her away from art altogether, and towards what she came to regard as a kind of therapy, in which objects took the place of speech and gesture.

At various points in the exhibition you can play with replicas of her Bichos (Creatures) which mimic how her larger sculptures were made. As you play with them these small hinged forms flip-flop and fold this way and that. They have a nice weight, and handling them feels a bit like doing card tricks. However, as you turn the articulated metal planes the results always have a jazzy, spiky sort of life. Unlike a card-sharp's sleight of hand, there are no wrong moves here. Putting her art in the hands of her audience, Clark allows us to play out their variations in unpredictable ways.

Other sculptures are more like architectural models for imaginary dwellings. Even when she worked with nothing more than matchboxes – open, closed, piled up, painted – she worked through their repertoire of possibilities. 

Gallery attendants are showing visitors the correct way to handle more of Clark's later objects: mirrored spectacles to be worn by two people; clear plastic envelopes containing water and shells, or air and ping-pong balls. Play doesn't always need to have a purpose. Yet there is something here that has a lot to do with sculpture, with touch, balance and physical coordination. A whole world seems to be here, caught between the density of the stone and the weightlessness of the bag.

Why not make cat's cradles and webs of knotted rubber bands, to get yourself into a tangle? Elsewhere children are gluing paper into Möbius strips, which they twist around their wrists, and manipulating flexible discs of industrial rubber that have been cut to resemble spirals of thick, black orange peel. This is sculpture you can drape over your shoulder, or which can flop over a plinth or hang on the wall like the sloughed skin of some bizarre cold-blooded creature. What curious and compelling forms they are.

Whether this sort of thing actually takes us from passive spectators to active participants is moot. But we do get a feeling that the artist is following the consequences of her work to its limit, and beyond. The limit, for Clark, and for this exhibition, is the abandonment of art altogether, in favour of collective activity and ritualised interactions. We are no longer in a world of spectators and artworks, but in a place where the object – a plastic bag or length of hose – becomes a therapeutic tool, with a function and a use, however obscure it may be."

Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

To read the full review, visit:

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