The Revolutionary from Mendoza

WR LEPARC.001Ben Shirley looks at the life and art of Mendoza’s most famous modern artist Julio Le Parc

Julo Le Parc was born in Mendoza in September 1928, just three months after Che Guervara’s birth in Rosario, and like his world famous compatriot, Le Parc was very much the inspiration of a revolution. The artist left Argentina for Paris, in 1958, just as Che was fomenting his revolution in Cuba with Fidel and in Paris Le Parc became crucially involved in a new movement of visual and cinematic art. Every part the radical revolutionary of the art world, he became a precursor of Synthetic Art. He helped break the tradition of ‘the painting’ and ‘the passive public’, introducing a dynamic and interactive aspect where the art piece was changeable and included the viewer. The idea was to take art to the people and the street, away from the elitist art galleries. Le Parc and his friends had mobile installations in the streets of Paris, directly involving passers-by and investigating human reactions and emotions as part of the art pieces.

Son of a railway worker, Le Parc was born in the city of Mendoza and when he was very young he and his family were moved to the fledgling railway depot town of Palmira, in the east of the province, 35km from the city centre, on the banks of the River Mendoza. He lived on Calle Uriburu, just a few blocks from the river in this rural town in the heartland of Mendoza’s wine producing region. Here he lived until aged 14, playing among the vineyards and stealing grapes with his friends. Seeing the irrigation of the vineyards with the open ditches, and crucially living next to the river, he was ever-exposed to the ever-moving waves and currents of the water. The artist himself has said how central the influence of water has been in his art. This is seen in much of his work, which moves and reflects the light. His hugely popular artwork can be described as a visual feast of powerful colour, light and volume. This could be Che describing the reasons for his revolution, it is however the artist Le Parc who says his work is:

“….to combat pasivity, dependence and ideological conditioning, developing within this medium the latent capacity for reflection, comparision, analysis, creation and action.”

Importantly, fame from his ground-breaking work and achievements has not affected his humility or turned him into an eccentric celebrity. He is profoundly aware and proud of his Mendoza roots. He was in the city for the inauguration of the wonderful Julio Le Parc Cultural Center, built next to the old train station in Guaymallen , on the corner of Mitre and Godoy Cruz streets and where several of his sculptures are on permanent display. He visited the town of his childhood, Palmira, where he has said he would like to live the last days of his life, leaving behind his fashionable workshops in Paris for his sons and students. As a final homage to his roots in Mendoza, he has put his name to a limited addition Malbec, made by winemaker Mariano Di Paola and La Rural winery.

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