Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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172 CULTURED PHOTO BY TADZIO IN KNOTS Artist Julio Le Parc gives new movement to Hermès' celebrated silk scarf. BY JANELLE ZARA For more than half a century, Julio Le Parc has mastered the art of motion. The Argentinian-born, Cachan, France-based artist and human rights activist was a powerhouse in the early days of Kinetic art. In the 1960s he co-founded Groupe de Recherche d'Art Visuel (Visual Art Research Group), a collective force that politically opposed the self-indulgence of Abstract Expressionism and questioned the art spectator's passive nature. Le Parc and his colleagues—including François Morellet and Francisco Sobrino—instead turned their focus on the viewer and subsequently disrupted the gallery dynamic with experiential pieces they based on the manipulation of light, reflection and color. Decades later, Le Parc's work continues to move. One of his latest projects is a collaboration with Hermès as part of the brand's Éditeur series—the fourth edition of an adaptation of an artist's work into a limited edition line of silk scarves. During a 2013 retrospective presented by the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the surprising freshness and vibrancy of Le Parc's art caught the eye of Hermès Artistic Director Pierre-Alexis Dumas. "The sheer pleasure of walking through his exhibition was really very intense," remembers Dumas. "His pieces looked as if they had been painted the day before, but when I examined them closer I saw the year 1958. I was very impressed—it was possible that something that was created a long time ago has not aged at all." The ensuing project, an edition of 60 silkscreened scarves entitled Variations autour de La Longue Marche, will be on display at the newly-opened Hermès flagship in the Miami Design District during Art Basel Miami Beach. The graphics come from paintings Le Parc created in 1974: La Longue Marche, two-meter-by-two-meter white canvases embodying the illusory effects that define the Op and Kinetic art movements. Stripes of color run parallel, then intertwine, then tie themselves in knots across the length of these canvases, replicating the sensation of motion. Like much of Le Parc's work, the series carried a political subtext: the name references the retreat, or Long March, of the Communist Party of China's Red Army in the mid 1930s. Le Parc, now 87, says he was initially surprised by Hermès' proposal."I don't have a horse," he jokes. He saw it, however, as an opportunity to bring a new dimension to a previous body of work. "There is this element of transformation," he says. "It was static, and suddenly it became dynamic." The compositions also changed, making new use of monochromatic backgrounds and separate lines of non-colors, like subtly different whites on white. The new life it brings to Le Parc's artwork is symbolic of the autobiographical aspect of La Longue Marche, which, in his words, is an endless journey. Julio Le Parc's series of paintings, La Longue Marche, inspired his Variations autour de La Longue Marche for Hermès.

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