Inspired in part by Lygia Clark’s prodigious artistic output from the years 1957 to 1959, the Brazilian poet and critic Ferreira Gullar declared in 1959 that neo-concrete art is a separate, if inherently related, phenomenon to concrete art. Clark and the other artists associated with the Rio de Janeiro-based neo-concrete movement, such as Helio Oiticica, were united by their belief in concrete art’s lack of creativity and overreliance on mechanist principles. They wanted instead to integrate art and life by defying the conception of art as a purely contemplative medium, creating interactive works that popped off the wall, were hung from the ceiling, and contributed to an integrated environment.
Planos em superfície modulada no. 1 (1957), Casulo (1958), and Contra relevo (1959) demonstrate Clark’s interest in geometric planes, as well as her increasing aggression toward the limits of the painted canvas. With each work, she moved progressively outward into the surrounding space, thereby rejecting the flatness of traditional painting. Planos em superfície modulada no. 1 and Contra relevo toe the line between painting and relief, while Casulo breaks free of the two-dimensional limits of painting altogether. The materials common to these works, industrial paint and wood, recall the ubiquitous construction occurring in cities across Brazil in the 1950s and ’60s. Amid such drastic change, art that ignored its environment rang false to the neo-concrete artists.