An artist of historical importance and an influential figure in contemporary art, Julio Le Parcs work will be presented in a large exhibition in France for the first time since the 1980s. His socially committed art is an immersive art, in which, through Le Parcs study of light and movement, the visitor is invited to discover new ways of interacting with the world. We discover a practice that rejects psychologism, an art that participates in a social utopia and which, following an industrial model, participates in the constant reconstruction of our environment. Spread over 2,000 square meters, this exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo
allow us to apprehend all facets of an oeuvre constituted of paintings, sculptures and monumental installations.
A visionary and engaged artist
A precursor of kinetic art and Op Art, founding member of G.R.A.V. [Visual Art Research Group] and recipient of the Grand Prize for Painting at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966, Julio Le Parc (b. 1928 in Argentina, lives and works in Cachan) is a major figure of art history. The socially conscious artist was expelled from France in May 1968, after participating in the Atelier Populaire and its protests against major institutions. A defender of human rights, he fought against dictatorship in Latin America. An uncompromising personality, in 1972 he refused to hold a retrospective exhibition at the Musée dArt Moderne de la Ville de Paris, after flipping a coin to make the decision.
An influential figure for the young generation
Julio Le Parcs examinations of the visual spectrum, of movement, light, and of the relationship between the work and the spectator, remain highly relevant today. The visitors physical involvement and visual disturbance, as well as the reduction or expansion of shapes, are foremost concerns for the many artists who continue to build today on Le Parcs research. The exhibition illustrates the extent to which the work of this artist, still young at 84 years of age, remains current, to convey his spirit of investigation and experimentation, and to allow the public to discover, or rediscover, his generous, playful and visionary work.
The artists first large-scale monographic exhibition in France
This important monographic exhibition of Le Parcs work, including large-scale installations in the Palais de Toykos entrance hall, features a selection of landmark works ranging from the 1950s to today. Certain of them are adaptations, scaled to their environment, of historical works, thereby endowed with a new life. The exhibition also presents the opportunity to move beyond the seductive appearance of Julio Le Parcs work, in order to confront his more political, even utopic, works. The layout of the exhibition plays on the contrast between dark and bright areas, with certain works floating in space: a sensory experience combining light, energy and movement.
RECENT AND UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS
Amongst his most noticed exhibitions of the past few years, we can note Le Parc Lumière presented in Zurich (Switzerland) in 2005 by the DarosLatinAmerica Foundation (then traveling in Mexico and Bogota); Suprasensorial, Experiments in Light, Color and Space (group exhibition) in 2010-2011 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington (United States); and Erre, variations labyrinthiques in 2011 at the Centre Pompidou-Metz (group exhibition). He was invited to participate in the Nuit Blanche on October 6, 2012, with two installations: the first on the Obélisque of the Concorde and the second at the Centre Beaugrenelle. Works by Le Parc will be presented in the exhibition Lumineux! Dynamique! Espace et vision dans lart, de nos jours à 1913, which will take place from 10 April to 23 July at the Galeries Nationales of the Grand Palais, Paris.
Selection of works in the exhibition
The Alchimies are a series of works initiated in 1988, which Julio Le Parc describes as his most experimental. Beginning with small sketches, the artist plays with the theme of metamorphosis and the change of physical state. Veritable color explosions, changing from a gaseous to liquid state, these simple geometric figures are seen through the lens of a certain kind of spiritual chemistry. This premise has been present in the artists work since in the end of the 1950s, when he resided in Argentina.
The Contorsions are a prime example of optical art, due to the stark contrast between black and white, but also of kinetic art with the play on a shape in movement. The deformed metal ribbonscontiguous or intertwined circles, vertical or horizontal curves on stripped, two-toned backgrounds, create a visual disturbance, or even the semblance of an illusion, in the viewer. These very simple devices, creating a slow and cyclical action, produce almost hypnotic works, recurrent in Le Parcs production since the second half of the 1960s.
At the beginning of the 1960s, Julio Le Parc decided to create works whose appearance would alter according to the viewers movements. The viewer is directly involved in the artists creative process, as his proximity to the work literally endows it with life. In Cloison à lames réfléchissantes (1966-2005), an image and/or the image of the spectator as he/she passes behind the work are fractioned and multiplied, creating a feeling of confusion. The chosen themes are very simple: geometric forms, whose uniform repetition improves the possible variations and deformations.
Julio Le Parc began to experiment with light in 1959. Originally, light was the means of giving a concrete form to several of his concerns, including the desire to create works in perpetual transformation. The result is a constant and unpredictable game of light and shadow. For the artist, the aim of these incredibly beautiful yet simple works is to initiate or pursue the destruction of traditional notions about art, its elaboration, presentation and appreciation.
Julio Le Parc has constructed two large mobiles, large works interspersed in the exhibition space, from the entrance hall to the heart of the Palais de Tokyo. With a great economy of means, the artist explores the notions of movement and instability. He relies on the reflection of neighboring images and of light in movement on small forms made of Plexiglas or of metal, connected simply with string. Through his immersive practice and by eliminating reference points, he alters our perception of and our relation to the scale of the space.
The Modulations are a striking example of the great diversity of Le Parcs work. The artist seeks out the ways in which he has revised or abandoned theories he had promoted previously. First in black and white, then in color from the end of the 1970s, paintings of grids, undulations or light beams, evoke a ghostly intuition: an immaterial presence floats there, a few centimeters from the painting, or occasionally behind it, in a world that must be entered.
The artist describes his research on reliefs, initiated in 1960, as a trap of lights. The multiplication of points of view is central to grasping these works, made of wood or plastic, whose shape changes constantly in a game of reflections and variations. Simple drawings at first, then paintings in relief or even veritable sculptures, works in this series were constructed as part of Le Parcs research on light and mobiles, and manipulate the viewers gaze.
Salle de jeux
The Salle de Jeux [Game Room] presented at the Palais de Tokyo combines different formats used by the artist. An unstable ground, a spring seat, distorting glasses from the 1960s, but also deduction board games from the 1970s with political overtones such as Faites tomber les mythes [Let The Myths Crumble], Choisissez vos ennemis [Choose Your Enemies] or Frappez les gradés [Shoot The Officers] are gathered in this space. They call for active and thoughtful participation on the part of the visitor, in whom the artist attempts to elicit a different kind of behavior, transforming him into the conductor of the exhibition.
Julio Le Parc began to work on the paintings surface in 1958, with the aim of limiting as much as possible the expression of the artists subjectivity on the canvas. At the time, he established unitary systems for governing the surface and shapes, and their relation on the surface, according to a determined program. In 1959, he pursued this research with color, to which he applied the same treatment as he had with shapes: he chose a unique scale of fourteen colors, which he has not modified to this day.