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Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: GRAV and Its Influences

September 26, 2018

The Paris based Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV), founded in 1960 by  François Morellet and Julio Le Parc, was a collaborative artist group best known for their collective experimental exhibitions referred to as Labyrinths. Each Labyrinth took on a very different character. They often included light installations, wall reliefs, and mobile elements that presented “games” to the viewer. This interactive emphasis distinguished GRAV artists from the larger Op-Art and Kinetic art movements because it challenged the authoritative assumptions of the Parisian art world. According to GRAV, a cult of personality electrified the École de Paris and created a top-down structure in which artists were allowed to subjugate their viewers. GRAV founders charged the consistent and “stable” nature of the individual artist’s cultural supremacy with sponsoring the same French attitudes that allowed for the rise of European fascism. GRAV thus set out to establish a scientific model of artistic production that would not only democratize the artist/viewer relationship but that would recondition French citizens to actively renounce authoritative political practices. GRAV artists, including Sergio Camargo, found rich fodder in the techniques that had been pioneered within the Op-Art movement.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)
Victor Vasarely, Citineu, 1973-1988
September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

They were particularly drawn to the “destabilizing” effect of Victor Vasarely’s works. Paintings like Citineu (1973-1988) lack a clear focal point and create an illusive confusion through their  “pulsation, rotation, and distortion.” This effect forces you to more seriously consider your own processes of viewing and the extent to which you can control it. According to GRAV, this encounter was highly influential and had the power to awaken the democratic political spirit, that in their estimation, lay dormant in the French people.

 

Los Angeles Modern Auction s(LAMA)
Yaacov Agam, Suite 3, 1974
September 30, 2018 Modern Art and Design Auction

The key to cultivating this phenomenon was employing an artistic process that was “absolutely mechanical.” While Yaacov Agam wasn’t a member of GRAV his Suite 3 (1974) provides an excellent example of the “mechanics” that the group so admired. To begin with, the purple-bordered image presents a combination of the other two blue-bordered images, revealing an experimental process. Next, Agam offers a prescribed treatment of his shapes and colors within this set of three, but this is where his authority ends. The rest of the Suite 3 experience (where to look, what to focus on, and how to relate the images to one another) is entirely up to the viewer. Agam has built the artistic machine but its use is a wholly a function of the viewer’s decision-making.

 

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)
Sergio Camargo, Untitled (Relief No. 261), 1969
September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

These ingredients come to a peak in Sergio Camargo’s Untitled (Relief No. 261) (1969). The wave-like dialogue between his short and long white pegs creates a cool, repetition-based regularity. The longer you look at the relief the more you discover patterns that aren’t necessarily intentional. Your eyes can get lost weaving in and out of the dark and light spaces that seem to appear. This was precisely GRAV’s goal: to create spaces of “visual therapy,” through mathematical formulas, in which you might discover more about your own process of reasoning than about the art itself.


LOT INFORMATION:

Lot 144
Sergio Camargo
Untitled (Relief No. 261)
1969
Oil on wood relief
Signed, titled, and dated in felt-tip marker verso; retains Gimpel Fils Gallery label verso
48.25″ x 40″ x 3.625″
Together with certificate of authenticity from Galeria Raquel Arnaud and the Estate of Sergio Camargo and book Camargo (1966)
Provenance: Gimpel Fils Gallery, London, United Kingdom; Private Collection, Beverly Hills, California (acquired directly from the above, 1971)
Exhibited: “Gallery Choice,” Gimpel Fils Gallery, London, November 17-December 3, 1970

Estimate: $500,000 – $700,000
September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 145
Victor Vasarely
Citineu
1973-1988
Oil on canvas
Signed “Vasarely” lower center edge of canvas; signed, dated, and inscribed “PROTOTIPE DU No 1200 ‘CITINEU’ 225 x 225” canvas verso; inscribed “VAS356” to canvas stretcher verso; titled, dated, and inscribed “No 1200″ to canvas overlap verso
Canvas: 17.75″ x 17.75″; Frame: 22.125″ x 22.125”
Provenance: Omer Tiroche Contemporary Art, London, United Kingdom; Private Collection, Los Angeles, California

Estimate: $35,000 – $45,000
September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 152
Yaacov Agam
Suite 3 (Comprised of Forme Lignes, Forme Couleur, and Rythme Ligne Forme)
1974
The complete set of three color screenprints on paper
#130 of 140
Published by Transworld Art, Fribourg; printed by Atelier Arcay, Paris
Each signed in colored ink lower right margin beneath image; edition lower left; each retains Transworld Art blind stamp lower left edge of sheet
Images each: 23.375″ x 23″; Sheets (vis.) each: 30.625″ x 30.25″; Frames each: 31″ x 30.625″

Estimate: $1,500 – $2,000
September 30, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

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