(1927, Rio de Janeiro–2004, Rio de Janeiro)

Divisor, 1968 
Performance documentation (September 29, 2018)
Courtesy Projeto Lygia Pape and Hauser & Wirth

Unlike the constructivists and the Latin American representatives of concrete art that followed them, the neoconcretism movement sought to return subjectivity, emotionality, and sensuality to geometric abstraction. Hence their attempts to represent complex human realities with simple colors and forms. An important artist of the postwar Brazilian avantgarde, Lygia Pape experienced her country in times of great historical contrasts: the futurist aspirations symbolized by the new capital, Niemeyer’s Brasilia, were destroyed by a military coup and a dictatorship which lasted two decades (1964–1985). In 1967, on the eve of the abolition of an already authoritarian constitution, Pape invited children from the favelas to walk the streets of Rio de Janeiro in a procession. The artist covered the children with a huge white cloth, the slits in which divided the crowd into single faces. Anyone could join the “carnival of the disenfranchised.” Divisor offered an opportunity to withdraw from the public space strictly regulated by the junta and into a zone of creative autonomy, albeit for a short while. This “social sculpture” made from white cloth and dedicated to human freedoms can rightly be considered part of the worldwide movement against oppression and inequality.

Iaroslav Volovod