Continual Mobile, Continual Light 1963 is a kinetic relief by Argentinian-born artist Julio Le Parc. The work is composed of seven 1240 mm transparent nylon threads suspended vertically in an evenly spaced row from a thin metal plate that projects from the top of a square wood backboard that is painted white. The threads hang loosely to form another smaller internal square and on each thread is suspended seven mirror-plate squares. As the nylon threads are suspended from one point only, they move quite freely in any air currents, creating powerful optical effects against the static white of the background. On the back of the work is inscribed the work’s title, date and city of production (‘Continuel-mobile | Continuel-lumiere. | Le Parc | Paris 1963’) along with the following instructions: ‘Emplacement ideal | sur un mur noir | dans l'ombre avec | une lumiere rasante’ (‘Ideal placement | on a black wall | in a room with | raking lights’). Also attached are two diagrams for installation, showing how the work should be lit with raking light from both sides.
Forming part of a series entitled Continual Mobiles, the work was realised by Le Parc in 1963 in Paris, the city to which he had moved in 1958. Its title emerges from the artist’s intention that the artwork should remain in motion. Le Parc clearly articulated his motivation for producing the Continual Mobiles in writings and interviews from the period, prioritising a move away from the ‘absolute’ or ‘definitive’ artwork to engage more fully with ideas of ‘movement’, ‘indeterminacy’ and ‘unpredictability’ (see ‘Eliminate the Word “Art”’, in Le Parc Lumiére, exhibition catalogue, Daros Exhibitions, Zurich 2005, pp.134, 137). Le Parc was determined to expand the role of the spectator in the works and consider how external contingencies such as the space of the gallery and the ability of the viewer to interact with the artwork impact its meaning (see Daros Exhibitions 2005, pp.134–7).
Curator Rocío Aranda-Alvarado has characterised Le Parc’s works from this early period in Paris as having a ‘whimsical quality’, noting that their titles perfectly embody the movement of the works. ‘Light reflecting off the surface of the metal squares underscores the title of the object,’ he observes, ‘continual light, refracted infinitely and deflected from the pure white background of the canvas’ (Aranda-Alvarado 2010, accessed 10 May 2016). Seen in the context of Le Parc’s extensive writings about the subject, Aranda-Alvarado concludes, 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’ (see Aranda-Alvarado 2010, accessed 10 May 2016).
At the centre of Le Parc’s practice is a desire to experiment with the viewer’s engagement with and perception of art, thereby altering his or her understanding of the role of the artist, spectator and the museum. Through his experimentation with light, Le Parc created a situation of visual instability and uncertainty, making the viewer and their experience an integral part of the work.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery’s Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, London 1981, pp.424–5, reproduced p.424.
Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, ‘Lot Notes’, Christie’s, London 2010, http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/sculptures-statues-figures/julio-le-parc, accessed 10 May 2016.