Generally speaking, I have tried, through my experiments, to elicit a different type of behavior from the viewer […] to seek, together with the public, various means of fighting off passivity, dependency or ideological conditioning, by developing reflective, comparative, analytical, creative or active capacities.

(Julio Le Parc)

Last September, on the day of his birthday (and it was really a pleasure to celebrate it with the artist), Galleria Continua presented for the first time in its spaces in San Gimignano the artworks by international leading artist Julio Le Parc, born in Argentina in 1928 and settled definitively in Paris in 1958. Awarded the Grand Prize at the 33rd Venice Biennale, Le Parc is well-known to be a forerunner of kinetic art and op art, as well as strongly committed to the defense of human rights.

The tile of the exhibition is 1958 → 2023, and it includes an important group of drawings made between 1990 and 2023, gouache and preparatory drawings made between 1958 and 1959, and a large body of works from the Alchimie series made between 2018 and 2023.

The Alchimie series started at the beginning of 1988 with “small sketches inspired by fortuitous and casual observations that, little by little, materialized." In this way, he created a multitude of drawings that became small paintings. It was amazing to discover that some of his works created between 1957 and 1958 in Buenos Aires already contained the beginning of the idea for the Alchimie series.

These intuitions then matured over the course of almost twenty years before becoming real paintings. “In this series, the lines undergo a metamorphosis, transforming into colored dots that chase each other frantically in space. In an act of creative defiance, these particles of color boldly go beyond the boundaries of the painting, invading the observer’s perceptive dimension. It is an extraordinary experience in which color and form merge in a visual dance capable of challenging any artistic convention." On the basis of this series, there has been an ensemble of experiments since the end of 1974 (the modulation series): "The basic thematic of this ensemble has its origins in the latest topics made with 14 scales of colors (waves, virtual volume) as well as some research on volumes I started in 1960. They used the same technique (airbrush paint), which made it possible to obtain shades from dark to clear and a precise modulation of the surface. Although, in appearance, this ensemble of work could give the impression of a radical change, in reality, it’s only the perseverance of an adopted attitude in a more or less clear way since the start of my research in 1958. This attitude had two more aspects: the first refers to situating and reacting to reality, analyzing the artist's situation in terms of its social role, his contradictions, his limitations, the way he is manipulated by his cultural surroundings, his dependency on the power in charge, etc. All this trying to fight arbitrary, inside or outside my own step, denouncing it or participating with others in some actions, intending to inflect the operation of the cultural machine. The second aspect refers to the behavior of continuous experiments with some risks to go wrong but also with the joy of adventure always developing from pre-established parameters, some of the multiple possibilities of every way.”

The exhibition is enriched with one of the most famous series of Julio Le Parc’s oeuvre, Continuels Mobiles. “Made up of hundreds of white translucent Plexiglas plates, the work, suspended from the ceiling, creates a play of transparencies, movement, and light. The irregularity of the shapes means that each light point gives the sensation of having a life of its own, emanating an extraordinary power. The first experiments with mobile elements, however, date back to the early 1960s, when the artist managed to bring together, in a single experience, multiple situations linked to the external contingencies of the work and the desire to disavow the latter as a stable and definitive object.”

This exhibition reveals an essential constant in Le Parc’s practice, namely the desire that the viewer can experience their involvement in perceiving the work of art in a completely new way, thus altering the conception of the role of the artist, of the exhibition space, and of the observer himself. Through his practice, Le Parc creates a situation of uncertainty and visual instability, making the viewer and their experience an integral part of the work. It was impressive how this artistic practice is still contemporary and describes how art can help our society and our behaviors: we have to stop thinking of ourselves as an audience, but we must be co-authors of our world.