Julio Le Parc

Continual Mobile, Continual Light

1963

Original title
Continuel-mobile, continuel-lumière
Medium
Painted wood, aluminium and nylon thread
Dimensions
Object:1575 x 1600 x 505
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1964
Reference
T00678

Summary

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.

Further reading
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.

Judith Wilkinson
May 2016

Supported by Christie’s.

Display caption

After moving from Buenos Aires to Paris at the end of 1958, Le Parc began to paint pictures with simple geometrical forms because he considered them more neutral than irregular forms, therefore closer to his aim of removing all trace of the artist’s touch and of subjective points of view. He soon started experimenting with movement and chance by suspending plastic or metal shapes on thin nylon threads in front of a contrasting background. Le Parc was a founding member of GRAV, the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (Visual art research group) in 1960.

Gallery label, October 2016

Catalogue entry

Julio Le Parc born 1928

T00678 Continuel-Mobile, Continuel-Lumière (Continual Mobile, Continual Light) 1963

Inscribed on the back 'Continuel-mobile | Continuel-lumiere. | Le Parc | Paris 1963' and 'Emplacement ideal : | sur un mur noir | dans l'ombre avec | une lumiere rasante', together with two diagrams showing how it should be lit with raking lights from the sides
Painted wood, aluminium and nylon thread, 63 x 63 x 8 1/4 (160 x 160 x 21)
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1964
Exh: Painting and Sculpture of a Decade 1954-64, Tate Gallery, April-June 1954 (311, not the work repr. in the catalogue)
Repr: René Huyghe (ed.), Larousse Encyclopedia of Modern Art (London 1965), pl.893; Michael Compton, Optical and Kinetic Art (London 1967), pl.23 in colour; Edward Lucie-Smith, Movements in Art since 1945 (London 1969), pl.160

After his arrival in Paris at the end of 1958, Le Parc began to paint pictures with simple geometrical forms (squares, circles, rectangles) because he considered them more neutral than irregular forms and therefore closer to his aim of removing all trace of the artist's touch and of subjective composition. He made paintings first in black and white, then in colour, with the forms and their relationships in accordance with a predetermined programme. Experiments with a systematic scale of colours in different permutations led him to imagine these variations succeeding one another in time, and hence to experiment from late 1959 with various types of mechanism for achieving this full range of variations. This marked the beginning of his tendency to move away from the creation of a static, unique, finalised work and to explore effects of movement, chance and variability.

His first experiments along these lines culminated early in 1960 in light boxes, with movable elements like shutters. These were followed soon afterwards by numerous other experiments, including some with movable parts adapted from those originally intended for the inside of the boxes. One such series consisted of a number of perspex or metal squares or rectangles of uniform size suspended vertically on thin nylon threads in front of a background of a contrasting colour (black on white, for instance, or red on green), in such a way that they could move continually in the air currents. In another series small transparent or mirrored squares were substituted for the opaque ones and hung at angles of 45 degrees against a white background, thereby introducing an optical dematerialisation of the basic elements, with reflections of the surroundings picked up by the moving squares and a play of moving light reflected onto the white background. As extensions of this idea he then set up artificial light sources in various places in a darkened room, experimented with bending the background so as to accelerate or slow down the reflections, and even made a work in 1962 with the hanging elements suspended in the middle of a darkened white room and scattering moving reflections from four beams of light across the walls, ceiling and floor. The result of these and other such experiments was the creation of a kind of art-spectacle, a visual situation which was continually different but nevertheless also basically the same.

The works with suspended squares are usually known as 'Continual Mobile' and those with changing light effects as 'Continual Light', but the Tate's piece, which combines the two themes, is entitled 'Continual Mobile, Continual Light'. It has a diagram and written instructions on the back explaining that it should ideally be shown in a darkened space and lit by raking lights from both sides. The artist confirms that it is a unique work, though there are several variants on the same theme.

(This note is based on the artist's published statements, above all on the texts in the catalogue of his retrospective exhibition at the Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, in 1972).

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.424-5, reproduced p.424


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