Critics’ Picks

Julio Le Parc, Continuel-lumière avec formes en contorsions (Continuous Light with Contorted Shapes), 1966/1996, wood, metal, polystyrene foil, aluminum, motor, lights, dimensions variable.

Rio de Janeiro

Julio Le Parc

Casa Daros
Rua General Severiano 159 Botafogo
October 12 - February 23

The utopian, kinetic output of Julio Le Parc has found a temporary home in Latin America. Born in Argentina in 1928, Le Parc has lived in Paris since 1958, and this exhibition, curated by Hans-Michael Herzog, focuses on his earliest light works: twenty-one sculptures made between 1960 and 1971. The show also sets the stage for the artist’s profound interest in viewer participation: One often sees children and their equally mesmerized parents gazing at the flexing ephemera and activating the movement sculptures of the salle de jeux, or game room, including one with a wind machine and another with suspended Ping-Pong balls, located in the solemnly blackened halls of Casa Daros, which was once an orphanage.

The exhibition alternates between singular sites of the artist’s signature black-and-white phenomena and his more expansive installations. As examples of the former, Cercle projeté (Projected Circle), 1968, comprises a singular hot filament of a halogen bulb swinging in and out of focus, and Continuel-lumière avec formes en contorsions (Continuous Light with Contorted Shapes), 1966/1996, creates concentrations of amoeboid halos by bending propped-up bands of silver metal. Lumière en mouvement – Installation (Moving Light – Installation), 1962/1999, includes a semicircular screen where weightless fluttering reflections dance past its egg-shaped margins as if in uncontrollable disobedience. In the institution’s lower education level are four of Le Parc’s first light boxes, which, deactivated, sit in their Plexiglas cases like reliquary sculptures. Their ad hoc simplicity—pieces of wood, metal, and plastic are jury-rigged together by hand—is the greatest clue to unpacking Le Parc’s practice, which works backward from the preconceived grand result to these humble dioramas.

The show highlights the boxes as the true material of his process, their produced images mere by-products meant for social reception. Archived in this way, these objects resemble work by Fluxus artists, including architect and graphic designer George Maciunas, who lauded engineering as a socially constructive end in his group’s interpretation of the constitutions of art. Light also merits adoption, but not without its provocations.