Museum Sunday: Kinetic Art in Italy 1968-1968

  A Sunday with little sunshine and often breezes gave me a big willing to get out of my air-conditioned room. However, staying outside too long was a burden too: high humidity prevented my sweat from vaporizing and kept my whole body dripping. Thus, there was no better place to spend this peaceful afternoon than in a good museum. For today, I picked the Kinetic Art Exhibition in Sompo Japan Museum (Musee Seiji Togo) in Shinjuku.

  I am a fan of art, but not too much that I can know every movement. Today’s theme was a new field which I got this chance to learn enthusiastically. I had felt this kind of art before; I had long perceived such existence. Nevertheless, this exhibition coined the perfect term: kinetic art. Every piece moved; I moved too; and so was I moved.

  I do not go on explaining what kinetic art is, or what trends/movements/styles it has. You can easily find the sum-up in Wikipedia. I more want describe my impression on the pieces I saw today at the exhibition. Despite its deep history and vast span, kinetic art at today’s exhibition focused on the movement in Italy during 1958-1968.

  I had known Op Art before, and felt even more interested now that I understood its classification. It was like knowing the girl in the next class and now you got closer to her knowing her background and you feel you are in love with her (although sometimes love does not work that way). I bet many of you, like me, must have encountered paintings like the one I posted below somewhere some time. However, standing in front of the genuine piece as large as it could devour my body blasted a wave of amazement directly at me. To tell the truth, I was a little nauseated. I was not sure whether it was because of the intended structure, or the tremble under this beautiful influential work); either way, my heart pumped excitement all over the body.

  Franco Grignani 《Incastro fluttuante 33》
Franco Grignani
《Incastro fluttuante 33》

  Beside works that created optical illusions (op arts), there exhibited installments/arrangement/compositions which urged viewers to move to appreciate the kinetic-ism. For example, I stared in awe at the subtlety of the rubber strings and their angles to block or pass light. I then exuberantly move around, to the left, to the right, far backwards then up close. The gradient grey rectangle made up of light falling off into slanting rubber strings vigorously altered in size and in shape. I totally understood the feeling the little girl had when she bustled around the room excitedly chuckling. Works with glasses and mirrors also drew the same impression. Every single person in the room was excited: the works themselves moved, and we viewers moved too!

Alberto Biasi
Alberto Biasi

  Another section showcased these beautiful machines with motors. When I pushed the buttons (actually, I treaded on the buttons), the motor ran generating light, or motion, or electromagnetic fields, or all of them. I spent at least ten minutes gazing foolishly at this magnetic installment with iron filings climbing up curly structures and during such process the iron filings formed various interesting shapes. Another machine lit up from inside the cube, letting light leaking out its well-designed fissures on two layers. When I pushed either one of, or both, the buttons, the flashes of light rendered a variety of awesome figures.

Gruppo MID
Gruppo MID

At the same time as I admired the magnificent display, I felt the thrill and the hope the artists in those era had for technology. Without such feelings, how could they have combined motors into art works?

  All of the beauty in movements, in lights and shades, however, are not difficult to be found in daily life. I realized we had long applied these techniques in design consciously or unconsciously. For example, here in Japan most pharmacies display this board in front of their stores. As the blue cross inside revolves, the outside cut-out generates morphing shapes.

Pharmacy's Kinetic Art (?!)
Pharmacy’s Kinetic Art (?!)

Another thing I have always paid attention to is the kind of window curtains that have thin horizontal stripes of flipping panel; if you flip it down you hide everything inside and vice versa. Today visit to the museum reminded me of how close to us art is. It is always there for us to create, to utilize and to admire.

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Except for the last one, all other photos are captured from the catalogue book I bought at the museum.

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