Three artists to know Kinetic art

“Movement” is ever-present in Art history. You can notice some kind of representation of it all the way back in the Art of the Greeks and Romans.

In Modern Art, artists started to experiment with new techniques and materials to create a sense of motion both in painting and sculpture. What we call Kinetic Art are moving sculptures and Op Art are paintings that create the illusion of movement.

The first moving sculptures were created around the ‘20s by artists like Naum Gabo (who also named the style) with his “Kinetic Construction – Standing Wave”.

In 1955, the exhibition “Le Mouvement” at Galerie Denise René in Paris gather artists like Marcel Duchamp, Alexandre Calder, Victor Vasarely and Jesús Rafel Soto, putting Kinetic art on the map.

Although we have artists creating Kinetic art today, the movement had its peak from the ’50s to the ’70s when some of the most interesting works were made. 

Alexander Calder

The first artist that comes to mind when I think about Kinetic Art. I love the way his work contains both playfulness and beauty.

Influenced by the Dadaists and Surrealists, Calder once said that he wanted to create “moving Mondrians”.

Taking the colour palette from Mondrian and working his knowledge of engineering, he created his famous “mobiles” in the ‘30s: Light metal structures suspended from ceilings or standing, moving in a determined way or according to the wind.

This beautiful 1950 film by Herbert Matter shows Calder working on many of his mobiles. The music is by the Avant-garde composer John Cage.

Jesús Rafael Soto

Living in Paris in the ‘50s, Soto became associated with other artists that were incorporating the Kinetic style.

His work pivots around geometric or organic forms, always towards abstraction. He uses Perspex, nylon, steel and other industrial materials, creating sculptures that play with illusion.

During his career, Soto also experimented with the vibration of materials in works that invited the viewers to take part in the experience.

He is considered one of the most important artists in his native Colombia naming the “Museo de Arte Moderno Jesús Soto ” in Ciudad Bolivar.

Julio Le Parc

Le Parc started to experiment with Kinetic and Op art in the ‘60s and is still active today.

His work started in black and white and evolved to colourful, big “interventions” where the material, the light and the viewer are part of the experience.

He frequently uses Plexiglass in sculptures and works the reflection of light in surfaces.

In 1966 Le Parc wins the Grand Prize in the 33rd Biennale di Venezia.

When you see his work it’s a mesmerizing experience. The atmosphere transports you to a different place. It’s a mix of hypnotic, calming, energizing and dream. 

Julio Le Parc lives and works in Paris.

If you are curious to see some of the works in action, check this amazing video by Palm Springs Art Museum exhibition “Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969”.

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