Lygia Pape, ‘Livro noite e dia (Book of Night and Day)’, ca. 1963-1976, Phillips

Each: 6 1/4 x 6 1/4 x 5/8 in. (15.9 x 15.9 x 1.6 cm)

From the Catalogue:
“My concern is always invention. I always want to invent a new language that’s different for me and for others, too,” Pape once remarked. “I want to discover new things. Because, to me, art is a way of knowing the world; it’s the way I have to see how the world is…of getting to know the world.” Such epistemological questions about the artwork, its world-consciousness and its formal intelligence, precipitated the rise of Neoconcretism in Rio de Janeiro at the end of the 1950s. A counter to the dogmatic rationalism of the earlier Concrete movement, which had paced the Brazilian avant-garde since Max Bill took the major international award at the first São Paulo Bienal (1951), Neoconcretism embraced the embodied sensuality and poetics of geometry. Led by Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, and Pape, as well as the critic Ferreira Gullar, the Neoconcretists adopted a phenomenological position toward the art object, positing a new reciprocity between its creation and its experience in time. A number of recent exhibitions have underscored this generation’s legacy, among them Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948-1988 (Museum of Modern Art, 2014), Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium (Carnegie Museum of Art, 2016), and now Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms, which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in March.

Pape had previously adhered to the Concrete aesthetics of Grupo Frente in the mid-1950s, seen in her series Relevos and Tarugos; they anticipated her dismantling of the figure-ground relationship in the Tecelares, a series of woodcut prints that directly preceded her Ballet Neoconcreto I (1958) and the evolution of her extraordinary, sensorial books. “We were breaking out of the frame, moving into three-dimensional space,” Pape reflected of the early days of the Neoconcrete group, citing Clark’s Bichos (Animals, 1960-64) and Oiticica’s Parangolés (1964-79). “And I made books, only they were books without words, just colors and shapes.” First came the Livro da Criaçao (Book of Creation, 1959-60), in which the prehistory of the world unfolds through sixteen cardboard squares with cut-out shapes and folds meant to be manipulated by the active viewer; its narrative flows across space and time, moving fluidly from the plane into three dimensions and then back again, the open structure generating new meanings and self-awareness. The twelve-part Livro da Arquitetura (Book of Architecture, 1959-60) was soon followed by the Livro do Tempo (Book of Time, 1961-63) and the Livro Noite e Dia, each organized around the cycle of a year.

For Livro Noite e Dia, Pape explained, she “‘read’ the light of these 365 days,” abstracting the shifting chiaroscuro harmonies of day and night into 365 small wood squares, painted in a spare palette of white, black, and grey. The seriality of this and the other Livros conveys a sense of duration, protracting the passage of time from the creation of the work to its experience, in part or as a whole; each “day” and “night” is sui generis, and yet interconnected with the natural and universal cycles of life. The underlying geometry of Livro Noite e Dia takes its cue from Brazilian Concretism, but its thorough dissection of the square breaks the picture plane, projecting fully into the space of the viewer. “The Neo-Concrete experiment of energizing space, conveying equal values to positive-negative,” Pape wrote, “gives us an organic integration: space between solids becomes form in a continuing logical development, lending it new meaning, poetic meaning even.” A modernist book of hours, Livro Noite e Dia upends the act of reading, its meaning created in the vivência of color and form. “Although people are making plenty of art books, no one makes them like mine,” Pape rightly observed, “books conceived as formal, signifying, wordless language.”

Abigail McEwen, PhD
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: each signed "Pape" on the reverse

Iria Candela, ed., Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms, New York, 2017, p. 76 (another example illustrated)

Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

About Lygia Pape

Lygia Pape ranged widely across mediums, challenging formal and conceptual boundaries and becoming a pioneer of Brazilian contemporary art. Claiming, “art is my way of understanding the world,” she worked in painting, printmaking, sculpture, dance, film, performance, and installation, always attempting to merge art and life. Her career began in the 1950s, with her involvement in the Concretist and Neo-Concretist movements, during which she created Op Art compositions driven by geometry and line. She later moved beyond these movements, orchestrating one of her best-known works, Divisor, in 1968, for which she invited people to poke their heads through slits cut into a capacious white sheet and move en masse in a circle. Towards the end of her life, she was crafting vivid installations, which, like all of her work, integrated the aesthetic, ethical, and political with elegance and wit.

Brazilian, 1927-2004, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil