Meet Julio Le Parc, one of the most important and pioneering kinetic artists in the world. His creative and introspective body of work speaks to what it means to stretch oneself to new levels of exploration; a theme that’s prevalent in his intention and which he shares during this one-on-one sit down with avid collector and art expert, Tanya Brillembourg Capriles of TBBOX Art. The Argentinian-born artist who has spent most of his life living and working in Paris, France is in Miami to celebrate his recently unveiled 100 plus-piece retrospective at Miami’s Perez Art Museum—an important proposition on behalf of the museum, as Le Parc’s first U.S. museum survey.
At 88 years old, Le Parc shows no signs of slowing down. At the recent installation of his show, the master interacted with his works with the simultaneous innocence of an onlooker seeing them for the first time and the wisdom of their creator. He speaks to the importance of keeping that constant curiosity and how holding on to that approach is what keeps him alive. Le Parc’s forward-thinking approach was leaps and bounds ahead of his time and today, his revolutionary works reveal a technological approach that is at the same time innovation and original.
In this epic conversation, Brillembourg-Capriles delves into why now is his time, the importance of his genius creativity and how he’s acted as a channel, unknowingly bridging the past and present for over half a century.
TBC: You’re from Argentina, from Mendoza, what was it like there.
JLP: It’s a little far from Buenos Aires and it’s small but it’s so beautiful.
TBC: Around 1958 you went to Paris where you formed a group called Recherche d’Art Visual with a group of other artists like Yvaral, François Morellet and Francisco Sobrinos. Tell me about that time and what you were you trying to say with your works?
JLP: At the onset we were eleven but we ended up being six. Finally, we were Yvaral, François Morellet, Francisco Sobrinos, Horacio Garcia Rossi, Joël Stein and myself. In general, we wanted to talk about the experiences that could be achieved by our art both individually and collectively. It was about confronting our realizations on an individual level as well as they related to cultural happenings in that time.
TBC: You left France in that time due to the political climate; did that affect the group?
JLP: In 1978 the political movement was one of classes and immigration and the French government adopted approaches to show that everything happening in France wasn’t a product of the French but instead of the foreigners who they claimed came to create upset in the region. The Ministry of the Interior decided, at that time, that all foreigners were to be driven out immediately, so we left.
TBC: And where did you go?
JLP: A group of us left by car. We drove North through Belgium and then to Germany and Italy.
TBC: In the years to come, did you continue working with optical experiments?
JLP: It was almost like I had themes to revisit at that time—ideas to reconsider and to expand upon. There were so many concepts that had remained at the level of ideas or that were still works in progress and I was able to further develop them. Even original sketches and concepts from 1959 and 1960 were readdressed.
TBC: My family has a beautiful piece in our collection that was a product of that readdressing. It was conceived experimentally in 1959 but wasn’t produced until 1994. My grandfather, Miguel Angel Capriles acquired from David Friedman gallery in Bueno Aires. To me it’s amongst my favorite of your works as it shows what a visionary you were. Especially as I learn so much these days about quantum physics and Buddhism and understand their concepts of existence and I see this work of yours and the way that it reflects light and how as viewers of your work we are similarly reflected in that work; it’s almost as if science is finally catching up to what you were referencing over 60 years ago—like parallel universes existing simultaneously. I wonder if that was your intention; if you meant to share that message through your work.
JLP: In reality there is no inspiration of influence from science as it has evolved today in my work. At least not intentionally. There might be, echoes of different references existing throughout them but really at the exact moments that I’m creating, the themes are usually related to internal conflicts. It’s not so much about me trying to illustrate concepts of quantum physics or space of time but you’re not the first to assume as much. There was an exhibition that took place in Buenos Aires for a scientific organization that was celebrating the anniversary of their publication and they asked to have their celebration take place in a museum where my works were being exhibited and I met many scientists there that thought I was so wise. They assumed that my works, the movements, the use of light, all corresponded with the theories that they understood so well. I was unfamiliar with those theories still but they saw my works as a visual representation of those highly developed theories.
TBC: So in other words, one could say that artists are almost like channels in a certain way, perhaps without even noticing it—that through your investigations or techniques, your art was almost like a fast-forwarding to what would be. Even if you look at the art being created today by such contemporary artists as Carlos Cruz-Diez, who are creating optical effects with the use of computers, it’s almost as if they’re able to revisit older works that may have seemed inconclusive from a perspective of science. When you see your works in today’s space, do you realize how advanced they were?
JLP: I suppose in some cases it was like a fast-forwarding but it was in an unconscious way. If someone had propositioned me to illustrate any of these theories intentionally back then, the result would have been a sort of mess. And most probably had I had all the resources that are available to us today, I wouldn’t have created anything. I would have been overwhelmed by the technologies at my disposal: laser lights, programming, the internet; they’re used today and they tell a different point of view but for me it was about the relationship between elements and how they functioned together and the results that that relationship would yield. It was about the results that I could control myself; be they small movements or motors that would move at my desired speed or the distance between a light and an object and the effect that that would create. Once new technologies started to appear, I found myself in front of works of art that incorporated so many technical elements that it was almost as if the exhibitions felt like a catalogue of resources. The relationship between the method used and the visual result is an important one to me. It is possible for a work of art to suffer from an experiential place even if the technology used is much and modern. On the other hand, if the result is strong, the viewer doesn’t pay much attention to the means by which it was created in terms of technology; what they care about is how it makes them feel. Ideas aren’t born of obsession with technology; the technology can act as an aid in achieving a visual representation of an idea, but if the intention is wrong it becomes boastful in a way. It’s like works of art where the artist has hired teams of technicians to resolve issues with the piece’s function, in that moment the techs have almost superseded the original idea and it loses feeling. Sometimes help is required but I believe that the dominant theme should always be the idea and intention of the artist.
TBC: Do you think that through the globalization of art machines and technology with become a substitute for the kind of artisanal skill of which you speak; that science with overpower the man made?
JLP: I think it’s more about the way that the technology is used. For example, somebody decided to put oil paints in tubes so that artists would be able to more easily create the colors with which they wanted to paint through mixing and that made the process easier but it didn’t rob from the original intention. I have always looked for simplicity in reaching my goals in my work because I know if something takes me too long to achieve I might lose my courage, so I try to see results as quickly as I possibly can by incorporating the most effective means. My attitude towards my art has always been about experimenting and changing depending on what I’m trying to develop. By the same token, there are artists who are monothematic; who garner positive feedback from a certain aesthetic when they’re young and make it their brand image or calling card but in those instances I feel that the ability to create and invent becomes sort of blocked.
TBC: So essentially your belief is in the heightened creativity of artists.
JLP: As long as that creativity exists in the constant search for originality. I believe in the constant search for more. In my personal case that search is what keeps me alive and it’s where the element of surprise exists. I try to put work and imagination into the developing of certain themes in the hopes that I can give birth to something concrete that will end up having a relationship with the viewer. And truthfully, that state of curiosity maintains my relationship with myself.
TBC: You’re being honored with a retrospective of about 100 of your works here at PAMM. It is a very beautiful exhibition and Miami is waiting to receive it, and you, with open arms. Are the bodies of work representative of all of your different periods?
JLP: Yes. There is a great amount of works and experiences presented at this show and I hope they amount to myriad sensations for the viewer. Whether it’s a visual relationship or a feeling of participation or what have you, my goal is that from the time you experience the show from entrance to exit you leave changed. I hope that the viewer creates a relationship with the works and with the ideas that the works propose independent of any specific information about their meaning or intention. I want people to leave with an overwhelming sense of optimism that allows them to approach their day in a different, more relaxed way, armed with this new experience.