Perhaps most well-known for his fantastic experimentation with the interaction of light, form, and movement, Julio Le Parc is an acknowledged master of Op Art and Kinetic Art. For over 50 years, Le Parc has worked with movement and stylized forms, as epitomized by this work, Continuel Lumiere. His years in Paris were extremely formative to his body of work and influential to the other European artists working with him.
In 1958, Le Parc won a grant from the French Cultural Service, allowing him to travel to Paris. In 1960, he became a co-founder of the Groupe de Recherche d'Art Visuel, (G.R.A.V.), a group of artists deeply committed to constructed forms and kinetics and to making the work of art have a social function as well as a real presence in the street. Through their experimentation, these artists hoped to make their works accessible to the public, eventually allowing them even to manipulate the objects.
In the group's manifesto, which they distributed at the Third Paris Biennial in October of 1963, they stated:
We want to interest the spectator, to rid them of their inhibitions, to make them relax. We want to make them participate. We want to place them in a situation which will both launch and transform them. We want them to turn towards interactions with other spectators. We want to develop in the spectator a powerful capacity for perception and action.
This specific interest in the role of the spectator as both activator and interpreter is significant, marking the G.R. A.V as a significant precursor to performance and other avant-garde forms of aesthetic expression.
Continuel Lumiere dates from the artist's years in Paris and reflects the whimsical quality of works from this period. Light reflecting of the surface of the metal squares underscores the title of the object, continual light, refracted infinitely and deflected from the pure white background of the canvas. This work forms part of a series known as continual mobiles, as they were intended to be in perpetual motion. Le Parc had become increasingly interested in "moving away from the notion of a stable and definitive work." Suspending smaller pieces of white, black, colored, metallic or transparent plastic at various angles in front of the canvas, he played with the movement of light across each individual surface and across the work as a whole. Each little piece, positioned randomly, moves according to ambient air and the refraction from each surface is also modified according to the angle at which the light hits.
These works eventually lead him to larger and more ambitious experimentations with color and light in a darkened space. Manipulating the shape and surface of the backdrop, reflections could be accelerated or slowed down; the angles of each piece could be modified infinitely. Taken together with his extensive writings about the subject, it becomes clear that each work was created as a way to expand the experience of the spectator and to narrow the distance between object and observer.
Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, Associate Curator, Special Projects, El Museo del Barrio.