Julio Le Parc: A Revolution with all the Lights

Arte al Dia International. No. 113 – November 2005

Julio Le Parc is one of the main creators of kinetic art in the world. He was born in the Argentine Province of Mendoza in 1928 and studied at the Schools of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires. In 1958 he obtained a scholarship from the French government and since then he has lived in Paris. 

He was a pioneer in the development of Kinetic Art, formulating the postulates of Optical Art and participating with Hugo Demarco, Francisco García Miranda, Horacio García Rossi, Molnar, Francois Morellet, Sergio Moyano Servantes, Francisco Sobrino, Yvaral and Joël Stein, in the GRAV group (Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel- Research Group for Visual Art), founded in 1960. They worked together until 1968, year in which they acted closely with students in the May 68 events. 

They tried to modify the relationship between the artist, the spectator and the work of art through ludic actions. They also proposed the idea of a work of art as an open proposición plástica (plastic proposition), in which the spectator is an actor in contact with the work. 

Julio Le Parc’s research in art is contemporary to the postulates of action painting from around the world. This was a time when the concept of art as a “canvas” was expanding to other experiences such as performances (actions), happenings (events) and urban interventions. All of these new formats invited the spectator to actively participate, not only with the reflection ona the concept but also with the incorporation of body movement by the viewer of the artwork. Among them we could mention the Situationists of the Fluxus group, the Viennese Actionism, the Land Art and urban and landscape interventions of Christo and Nicolás García Uriburu, the happenings by Marta Minujín and the kinetic artworks of Jesús Rafael Soto.

Le Parc applies the principles of repetition, serialization and rhythm to his work. His investigations are based on the perceptual possibilities of the human eye. He investigates and analyzes the pure elements of vision (points and lines), including real and virtual movement in his works, where the eye of the viewer becomes the engine that sets the participative situation in motion.

These artworks are contextualized within Umberto Eco’s The Open Work, where he states that the interpretation of the artwork and therefore its willingness to be understood, is open to any viewer who assumes the task of completing its meaning. From this point of view, Le Parc’s production is based on a concept of social art, understanding that everyone has the capacity to see and therefore to understand these works, regardless of their narrative or local contents. 

Generating situations in the street, obstructing the ordinary movement of people, impels them to act creatively by thinking about what they encounter in their daily lives, reformulating conceptual frameworks and perceptual maps, as well as reflecting on the expanded concept of art (art outside the elitist sphere of the art gallery) and trying to generate forms of symbolic production that activate playful attitudes in people to overcome obstacles.  

In Desplazamientos the curved images of the artworks are related to the displacement of the spectator, and the changes in the artworks itself suffer an acceleration linked to the movement of the spectator. As the spectator walks, he observes how the curves become circles and perceives the optical effect of this movement that is not real but virtual. The panel of reflective sheets (flexible metal with optical properties normal to mirrors) fractures and multiplies the surrounding images. In order for the work to fulfill its purpose, to assemble and disassemble the images, it is necessary for the spectator to intervene. He or she must walk and move to see the artwork in action. 

In 1966 Julio Le Parc won the First Prize at the 33rd International Venice Biennale, an event that consecrated him internationally.

Later on he turned to painting in two-dimensional pictures, achieving effects of light, volume and movement in his Modulaciones