Lygia Pape’s Radical Banquet

Esther Allen writes: ‘“IS YOUR LIFE SWEET?” A 1996 work by the Brazilian artist Lygia Pape—LEE-zha PAH-pee—poses the question in black letters stuck into long mounds of white sugar poured across a brown background. The photographs that document it look like close-ups of a slice of multilayered chocolate cake, oozing white icing. By the time she made it, Pape’s career had evolved through two schools of geometric abstraction—Concretism and its less rigid Rio de Janeiro

counterpart Neo-Concretism. She had made paintings, sculpture, artists’ books, films, installations, and performance art. She had designed all the packaging for Brazilian biscuit manufacturing giant Piraquê. And she had witnessed the disappointments of democracy and the rise of Brazil’s military dictatorship, which briefly imprisoned her. A retrospective of her work currently at the Met Breuer—her first solo exhibit in the United States—is highly conceptual, drawing on semiotics, architectural theory, and anthropology, but never losing a deep connection with the visceral realities of daily life.’

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