| Art |

Julio Le Parc's "Form Into Action" Springs to Life at PAMM

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Optimism: Most of us are coming up short on it these days. Terror attacks and gun violence have ravaged Europe and America this year unlike never before. Demagogic leaders and xenophobic social policies have seemingly risen above more inclusive values. Families, friendships, and Facebook are torn apart. How can we find something to smile about? Something to hope for?

Julio Le Parc has an idea. The Argentine-born, Paris-based 88-year-old — one of the most significant artists to have emerged from the participatory kinetic art movements of the 1960s — will present his first comprehensive U.S. survey at Pérez Art Museum Miami this season. Le Parc says he hopes "Form Into Action" — playful, irreverent, and dripping with pattern, color, and shape — inspires optimism in our increasingly uncertain world. Opening this evening and running through March 19, 2017, the exhibition features more than 100 works spanning the artist's 55-year career, including large-scale installations, light-filled objects, and rarely seen works on paper.

How does an artist inspire a sense of confidence in the future within a viewer? Le Parc starts with reminding you that things aren't always as they appear. Challenging artistic institutions was a critical aspect of Le Parc's work. In the 1960s, museums were largely exhibiting 2D painted canvases and very rarely considered the work's effect on the viewer. Le Parc sought to challenge those norms, from his use of black walls to contravert the white-box gallery conception, to installations that sprang to life by manipulating light and using reflective elements.

As the show opens, Le Parc's studious geometric abstraction practice takes center stage. A striking entrance – hanging scraps of reflective cardboard shining light on dark gallery walls – leads the viewer to a gallery filled with some of the artist's earliest works from the late 1950s. Drawing shapes in black and white, Le Parc creates movement using a singular, linear grid. Though the linear image is fixed, he aims to distort spectators' perception of it – an optical illusion meant to engage viewers directly and include them in the joke.

An exhilarating burst of color ushers viewers into the next step in Le Parc's evolution as an interactive artist. He was curious about color placement and how the distortion might affect the way a viewer perceives the same color. Technicolor shapes, melting into rainbow-hued abstractions, stand out against black walls like burning stars in an infinite galaxy. In the next room, guests are taken through a veritable fun house of Le Parc's imagination, akin to the carnival attractions you might have entered as a kid. Hanging mirrors disrupt your sense of place; shifting tile floors cause you to lose your balance; kaleidoscopic glasses prism your vision. Reaching viewers by forcing them to interact and consider the work is imperative for Le Parc, but so is the idea that art can be playful.
Though his work might seem highly techinical and complex, it's actually fascinatingly simplistic. Less so is Le Parc's manipulation of rudimentary mechanisms and drawings, which he tinkers with to create complex optical illusions – an aluminum and stainless-steel box with a simple motor beaming light is the principal tool in many of his light installations, and he often uses a single shape to create an illusion of movement on canvas. It's incredible to think that so many of these works, created in the '60s and '70s, so aptly capture the futuristic elements present in contemporary art today.

With "Form Into Action," Le Parc dares spectators to step outside their comfort zone and live temporarily within his alternate universe. There can be beauty in chaos, Le Parc seems to suggest. Colorful, quirky, and filled with light, Julio Le Parc's work can perhaps cure our 2016 malaise – if only for the time being.

Follow Nicole on Twitter @niki_frsh.

"Form Into Action"
Through March 19, 2017, at Pérez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Admission costs $16, or $12 for students, seniors, and youth. Children 6 or younger, active U.S. military, and museum members get in free. Visit pamm.org.

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