Villa Datris

Isle-Sur-La Sorgue

By Patricia Avena Navarro | November 23, 2012

The opening of a space devoted to sculpture is quite an unusual event in France. Daniele Marcovici and Fourtine Tristán’s decision to create at Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, near Avignon, a foundation specializing in contemporary sculpture, in the diversity and the evolution of this artistic medium whose richness matches its multiplicity, was most favorably received.

Villa Datris

In order to host the collection and the temporary exhibitions, an extensive renovation was carried out in a 19th century Provencal hotel, the Villa Datris, aimed at turning it into “a unique and magical place”, inhabited by its sculptures.

Inaugurated in 2011, during the current year the Villa Datris is presenting “Light and Movement”. The exhibition gathers together the work of around fifty French and foreign artists, and taking as its point of departure a selection of their art, it explores the different aspects of the two great movements of the 20th century: Kinetic Art and Op Art. All the spaces in the villa, the gardens and the exhibition halls, are filled with life through the rhythms of the 85 works on display, a selection that links emblematic works and pieces by young artists in its pursuit of great poetic and formal freedom. Attractive, surprising and eclectic; interactive, participative and ludic, the exhibit presupposes an intimate dialogue, a conversation among artists, dead and living.

In 1955, the kinetic artists declared that the universe of art and the world of science were inseparable. Their searches were organized around optical phenomena, machines, and the plays of light and sound. This art, called “movement art”, encompassed two very close trends: Kinetic Art and Op Art, which could sometimes be confused because they shared the same heritage. Kinetic artists work on space and light; they orient their research toward the use of movement to liberate the artwork, both physically and symbolically. Others seek to restore the unstable, changing nature of a world formerly considered to be fixed and immutable, through optical phenomena and lighting effects.

Ten years later, in 1965, the term Op Art took root in Europe and this trend began to compete with kinetic art. The name, which is derived from an abbreviation of the term “Optical Art”, originated in England to designate work centered on optical play. However, as its name indicates and unlike in kineticism, the effects of illusion produced by Op-Art pieces are strictly virtual, present only on the surface of the retina. The eye is the motor driving the works, in which these visual prompts place the spectator’s body in an unstable position, between pleasure and displeasure, immersed in a feeling of vertigo not unlike being slightly tipsy.

The exhibition is a tour through the history of optical and kinetic art, and the works on view illustrate the theme of movement and light, which Tinguely defined in his phrase: “The only stable thing is movement, always and everywhere.” Whether engaging in real movement created by an engine or by lighting, or a virtual movement using optical illusions, each of the sculptures on display invites the public to participate and play with the art, making the viewer an integral part of the piece. In this way, art is displayed in this exhibition that bears witness to those years in which each of these artists was on a quest for pictorial truth through movement and light, thus creating kineticism and optical art in all their expressive forms. Through a selection that assembles the work of

Alexander Calder, Jean Tinguely and Nicolas Schöffer, among others, the exhibit proposes an exploration of these two trends and grants preferential consideration to the great masters of Latin American Kinetic art ─ Le Parc, Cruz Diez, Soto ─ through works that show the retinal power of kinetic art and its enriching trompe l’oeils, alongside those of young Latin American artists ─ Santiago Torres, Iván Navarro, Jaildo Marinho.

The different rooms receive the visitor, who is faced with an explosion of color and movement emerging from the kinetic works, whose processes of creation, linked to scientific method or to sheer intuition, lead the spectator, for an instant, to just “see”. Such is the case of the light boxes by Martha Boto, Hugo Demarco, Hans Kotter, Gregorio Vardanega, Francis Guerrier, Alain Le Boucher, Miguel Chevalier, Nicolas Schöffer, Gabriel Sobin; the neons by Iván Navarro, François Morellet, Roger Vilder, Ben, Laurent Baude, Chul Hyun Ahn, and the mobiles by Alexander Calder, Jean Tinguely, Roger Vilder, Daniel Grobet, Philippe Hiquily, Manuel Mérida, Susumu Shingu, Gabriel Sobin and François Weil, among others. After visiting the rooms, the spectator discovers a large, architectural sculpture in resin by Jaildo Marinho, featuring volumes and structures that highlight the void that plays a relevant role in the Villa’s gardens. Carefully elaborated, featured in harmonious colors, slowly and painstakingly executed, the sculptures hold a dialogue among themselves with absolute freedom. In constant transformation, the fruit of an overflowing imagination, they disappear and reappear before the eyes of the viewers.

The interesting thing about this exhibition is that the space of Villa Datris, transformed into a play space populated by mobiles and light boxes, captures the attention of visitors and suggests a delirious tour through infant memories. Kineticism and transparency, plexiglas and metal render them metaphors of modular forms that respond to a genuine geometric genealogy.