Lydia Clark was a painter, sculptor, and video artist, who was one of the founders of Brazil’s Neo-Concrete movement in the 1960s. This style of art meshed viewer participation, sensuality, and political discourse within abstraction to break down boundaries between art and life. Her kinetic works were primitivistic, often needing two people to collaborate in order to join in spectator participation. “But the key to my research is, from the origin, the participation, of the public: the breaking of the barrier separating the spectator from the work and from its ‘creator’.”
Clark attended Ecole Normale, Belo Horizonte, 1934-1937 and studied art in Rio de Janeiro in 1947. In the late 1940s into the early 1950s, Clark studied under Fernand Leger in Paris.
Clark first explored geometric abstraction when realism was the dominant style in Brazil. Clark insisted that her geometric paintings were true abstractions with no figurative content. In her paintings, she brought hard-edge forms into three-dimensional space so that her canvases would jut out into the air.
As a sculptor she made angular pieces such as her famous “Bichos (Critters),” ribbon forms, cut out of flexible materials, which were to be handled by viewers. She developed untraditional forms of malleable, wearable sculptures, and some of them were to be worn for therapeutic value. Drawing on her practice as a psychologist, Clark developed methods in which her patients interacted with objects as part of a healing process. At the 1968 Venice Biennale she made a labyrinth, called “The House Is the Body,” where people went through her art piece to experience a sense of their own conception and birth.
Later Clark gravitated towards film and performance art to bring art and life even closer together. Her writings on spectator participation are among the best things written on movement in time and space.
She was the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including Guggenheim fellowships in 1958 and 1962; Grand Prize in Bienal, Brazil; an honorary doctorate and gold medal Parma, Italy, 1968. Her art is in the permanent collections of Arts Council of Great Britain, Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and La Paz, Bolivia; and MoMA New York.