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Julio Le Parc: Yours kinetically!

Julio Le Parc

A disciple of Fontana, founder member of the Groupe de Recherche d'Art Visuel, Op'Art activist since almost 50 years - encounter with a master of motion and light. On display at Lélia Mordoch in Paris, until October 25.

Julio Le Parc was born in 1928, in Mendoza, Argentina. At the age of 14, he is enroled to the National School of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires. In 1958, with a grant in his pocket, he settles in Paris. Influenced by Vasarely, he turns away from traditional art in order to reorientate himself to the new domain of plastic investigations where the intermediation of light, colour and motion inspire him to his first kinetic objects.
In 1960, he founds the Groupe de Recherche sur l'Art Visuel (GRAV) along with other companions - Hugo Demarco, Francisco García Miranda, Horacio García Rossi, François Morellet, Sergio Moyano Servantes, Francisco Sobrino, Molnar, Yvaral and Joël Stein - elaborating collective works that praise the challenge of principles of creativity and of the artist's vocation. He is selected for the Documenta III in Kassel and wins the Price of Painting at the Venice Biennale 1966. This is still taking place in the year of his first personal exhibition at the gallery Howard Wise in New York, an experience he relives in 1967.
Thanks to his private success, the artist can acquire his first studio in Paris, in the district Bastille where he lives with his wife and his three children. In 1972, he finally settles in Cachan where he remodels a large space that he is still occupying these days. Honoured by several retrospectives in Europe (Germany, France, Spain) and in South America (Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile), Julio Le Parc is represented by major institutions all over the world - for example by the Moma in New York, the Tate Britain in London, the Musée d'art moderne of Paris...

Renaud Siegmann: What is, from your point of view, the difference between kinetic art and optic art, between these two categories of abstract art, these two avant-garde movements, both emerging in Paris at the end of the 50s?

Julio Le Parc: Here is what I think: These are artificial classifications which try to appropriate artists, rather than trying to really understand the material means they are using, their techniques. Let's think for example of artists who work with computers or with video - they exploit a material which is drawn from our everyday life. So they are gathered around the same content. This is a bit simplistic. It is the same with kinetic art: The idea was to focus on motion. In short, the critics have subsumed several signatures under [the expression]. And again, this is restrictive. The same applies to optic art: There is a relation to the surface of things, the eye, the retina... whereas the interest of a new movement can only be found in its research, its approach - so everything that brings us to its concepts, its models of creation.

Renaud Siegmann: From painting to sculpture, from installations to mobiles - your creations seem to tend towards the dematerialisation of supports, towards a situation where there is nothing left but space, motion, colour, light...

Julio Le Parc: It depends. At the beginning, I was working towards this direction, with supports that were no longer the represented surfaces - like a canvas for example - but a new situation creating changes on the surface of the tableau. And the provoked motion could appear in-depth, either rather forwards or rather backwards. This is what - as to the optics - positioned the observer on an intermediate level in the relation between these two states: On the one hand, with a focussed vision on the object; on the other hand, with a peripheric vision of the work, through other images stimulated by other disposed objects all around.

Renaud Siegmann: Where would you as an experimental artist position yourself with regard to minimalism?

Julio Le Parc: For me, minimalism is a starting point from which I wanted to explore other spaces, elaborate a new visual context. But I did not want to stagnate in the minimal, purely arithmetic part of the work; I had the ambition to transcend geometry, via the integration of exterior elements, with the objective of multiplying plastic situations.

Renaud Siegmann: With the foundation of GRAV in 1960, you were posing the problem of artistic creation, in particular, of everything that had been made in terms of the optic phenomenon, and of the construction of the work: its structure, its conception etc.

Julio Le Parc: Works by Klee, Mondrian, Pevsner, Vantongerloo, Moholy-Nagy, Sophie Taueber, Duchamp, Albers, the constructivists in general, Max Bill, Schöffer, and Vasarely who knew how to give a very strong presence to a work as to its visual effect, especially in his "black-white" period - these works formed the basis of our reflections. And let's not forget the youngest artists either: Tinguely, Agam, Bury, Soto. By analysing their strong points, their contradictions, their limits, we developed our approach in order to transcend the way they had paved. Inside the GRAV and the Nouvelle Tendance (NT) - the groups N of Padua and T of Milan - numerous propositions were brought forward, supported by precise experiences, concrete realisations, clear positions which encouraged the visual priority of the work, the systematic approach, the spectator's participation, the playful aspect etc. They denounced the mystification of art and artist; they equally denounced, by compromising us, the arbitrariness of the official art system, the dependence in view of the art market. In GRAV, we cultivated a form of creation which was quite a far cry from what was practised at that time, and what was based on individualism, glorified work, personality cult. Our approach was essentially drawn upon an attitude of continuous research, upon exchanges, upon a permanent confrontation.

Renaud Siegmann: What do you mean exactly when speaking of "mystification" ?

Julio Le Parc: I was thinking of the 50s and 60s, of free creation, gestic painting, of a couple of things that referred to philosophies like zen and/or others... where people had to be aware of certain precepts in order to access the works, in fact, conjecture about their meanings! All this is aimed at interpretations beyond the subject. This is mystification. We also offered specific tasks, but with the request that the audience really takes them into account. How to appreciate art otherwise?

Renaud Siegmann: Already in 1955, the gallery Denise René in Paris presented the first exhibition which was completely dedicated to kinetic art - the exhibition "Le Mouvement"...

Julio Le Parc: In spite of everything, it was an addition of personalities! At that time, those who exhibited at Denise René had not constituted any group, reflection or common work. After this, they followed their individualist path, emphasising their own peculiarity in their corner. That was comprehensible for Vasarely who was aged, and whose work was in full blow. It was the others who disappointed us: Our efforts to work together remained unrealised ever since; because our attitude challenged them. So they preferred to keep their exclusive territory, their thing.

Renaud Siegmann: What thing?

Julio Le Parc: For Takis, it was magnets; for Tinguely, motors; for Agam, displacement; for Soto, vibration. But there are also other mono-thematic artists who continually gain recognition by the art scene. So the attachment to a subject and the perseverance to maintain it on different supports allow [the artist] to constitute an identity, a label, a style, a brand image - i.e. a passport for success.

Renaud Siegmann: And you?

Julio Le Parc: The artists of GRAV and of the NT were not precisely fierce defenders of small things, of small discoveries... At the beginning, certain people among us advanced the view that we should lock ourselves up, make laboratory-like, very academic experiments. But we were against this idea because our research has always related to the spectator, with the objective of establishing new participative and playful relations.

Renaud Siegmann: A work of almost scientific research with results that lead plastically to ultra-sensory effects?

Julio Le Parc: Something can be associated with "concept art" or even "experimental art", when the perceived work as an open proposition allows the spectator first to make this experience himself. That is why it can be designated as sensory. It is in this sense, in this context where I would position, if necessary, the character of my aesthetics - between interactivity and instability.

Exhibition "Julio Le Parc", September 19 - October 25, 2008, Galerie Lélia Mordoch: 50, rue Mazarine 75006 Paris


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