Julio Le Parc: Bifurcations

Julio Le Parc: BifurcationsImage courtesy of Perrotin

Julio Le Parc: Bifurcations
Perrotin Gallery, Paris
From 14 October to 23 December 2017

 

Following his major retrospective at the Perez Art Museum, Miami and his concurrent exhibition at Perrotin New York, Julio Le Parc, 89 years old, returns to Paris with an exhibition of recent and historic works. Both floors of the gallery will be dedicated to new installations and mobiles that will be exhibited alongside recent paintings. Shown for the first time, these works will create a dialogue with the historical paintings, sculptures and installations from the 70’s to the 90’s. Lastly, a virtual reality artwork, designed with his son Juan Le Parc, will offer an insight into the artist’s work. On the occasion of the exhibition, Perrotin will publish a comprehensive bilingual book, which will include a text by Hans Ulrich Obrist and an interview between the artist and Jérôme Sans. Julio Le Parc’s art burst with boundless energy. Encountering him in his studio in the Paris Cachan suburb, he exudes a sense of youth and constant experimentation. Born in Argentina in 1928 and living in France, he is known for using projected, moving and reflected light to create works of art in constant flux which are as vibrant today as they were at the time of their creation.

 

Julio Le Parc: BifurcationsImage courtesy of Perrotin

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At the heart of his practice is a desire to experiment with our engagement and perception of art, thereby altering our perspective on the roles of the artist, the spectator and the institution, as well as a firm belief in the seditious potential of art. A note he wrote for Instagram at the time of his exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London in 2014 read: “Optimismo siempre” (optimism forever), a sentiment echoed by his playful and irreverent oeuvre. Through his experimentation with light, Le Parc creates situations of visual instability, in the work and in the viewer’s experience. These immersive and interactive installations are often activated by the viewer’s participation – shifting the focus of his work from the hand of the artist to the spectator. When I visited him in his Paris studio in 2013, he told me, “In my practice, people see what they see. A form of mystification comes into play when there are intermediaries, from art critics to art historians, texts, museum directors, galleries and also the market.”

 

Julio Le Parc: BifurcationsImage courtesy of Perrotin

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Early on in his formation, as he attended the Fine Arts School of Buenos Aires in the 1940s, Le Parc became immersed in a movement that reflected upon the political engagement of artistic forms. In many of our interviews we discussed his figurative contemporaries, inspired by Mexican muralists, and their abstract counterparts: “They [the figurative artists] were left-wing and they expressed themselves through figuration. They wanted to highlight social injustice, exploitation and the radiant future of struggles. [By contrast] the group Concreto-Invención produced geometric forms and saturated colours, but they also considered themselves left-wing. They presented themselves as being engaged with Marxism, with dialectics, and they say that one could intervene through colour and basic forms without the need for figuration. For me, these considerations were very important. We have here the same denunciation of an unjust society, the same drive for change, and yet two opposing forms of expression.”

 

Julio Le Parc: BifurcationsImage courtesy of Perrotin

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Since his very first experiments, an unmediated encounter between the artwork and the viewer was paramount: “We tried to create a relationship with viewers through the medium of the visual, of the retina, and by eliminating the anecdotal. We wanted it to be direct, that the surface of the work be what it was and stood on its own, without trickery, in order to create a direct relationship with the eye.” Inspired in part by Mondrian’s works, Le Parc’s works developed in a strongly optical and kinetic direction: “Our concern was to create paintings in which the whole was dictated by a system, while producing a visually interesting result. We called this ‘instability’, in the sense that the eye is not only stimulated at the point on which it focuses, but also in the periphery.

 

Julio Le Parc: BifurcationsImage courtesy of Perrotin

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This creates a movement—there is never a fixed point; something is always happening on the sides, it’s dynamic.” “Light made you think, and, there was light”, Le Parc wrote on a note in response to my question about his works with light and environments, echoing and modifying the demiurge’s word in Genesis into an interactive encounter of perception and thought. Le Parc’s first works with light date back to 1959 and highlight a development in his practice from kinetic object-based works to moving-light installations. These, now regarded as his most iconic artworks, stem from his continued investigation into the public’s engagement with art and the uses of exhibition spaces.

 

Julio Le Parc: BifurcationsImage courtesy of Perrotin

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This series bring forth different forms of engagement through a variety of optical illusions while using the same medium: light. Light that reflects, that is projected, or that is in movement emphasises the endless possibilities of perception offered by a common medium. When I asked him about his relationship to architecture, Le Parc referred to this in as “potential architectures”, though the works’ significance remains firmly rooted in the experiential: “Little by little I realised that perhaps I could develop he capacity to stimulate the imagination by manipulating elements that are more accessible than space itself, by making interventions on the surface. Even if there is always an idea behind it, and nothing is ever superfluous, it is not about throwing paint against the wall – there are sequences, transformations, situations.

 

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