ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955

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Lot 228
ABRAHAM PALATNIK
(b. 1928)
Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955

Sold for US$ 425,000 inc. premium
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928)
Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
wood, metal, screws, plastic, light bulbs, synthetic fabric and electrical components
24 1/8 x 24 x 7 3/4 in. (61.3 x 61 x 19.7 cm)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Acquired from the artist by the present owner.

    Abraham Palatnik is one of Brazil's most important contemporary artists and is globally recognized as one of the foremost figures in the use of technology in art. He emerged to the national stage in 1951 with an early prototype for what would later come to be known as his Kinechromatic Devices. The piece, which could barely fit through the doorway, was a machine using colored light to create painterly images. He was allowed to exhibit it in the inaugural Bienal de São Paulo (1951) as long as he agreed not to compete for a prize (he received an honorable mention) as the organizers could not find a suitable category for his work.

    This present lot, thought to be the only one of its kind, is a purely chromatic version of the fully motorized Kinechromatic devices of the 1960s (of which he made over thirty). It operates by hand-turning a knob on the side of the lightbox. Each rotation activates a new lighting composition producing eleven new kaleidoscopic images.

    Palatnik lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. He participated in the first nine São Paulo biennials, and exhibited at the 32nd Venice Biennale in 1964 alongside fellow countrymen Almir Mavignier, Alfredo Volpi and Franz Weissmann. His works can be found in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Malba; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; as well as some of the most important collections in Brazil, such as the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo; Museu de Artes Contemporânea Niterói; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro; and the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade, São Paolo. He is represented by Galeria Nara Roesler of São Paulo and Rio de Janiero.

    Almir Mavignier and Abraham Palatnik: the first experiences involving Op Art in Brazil

    By Felipe Scovino

    Abraham Palatnik and Almir Mavignier's encounter at the end of the 1940s is cited as an important moment in transformation of Brazilian visual arts at that time. When the country's first constructivist artworks began to appear, such as the experimental photographs from Geraldo de Barros or Mary Vieira's kinetic sculptures, a simultaneously strong current against abstractionism was also emerging, led by Di Cavalcanti who said, "the work of abstractionists Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Arp, Calder is a sterile specialty." It was in this cultural climate that the shift from modern to contemporary occurred nationally in Brazil. As critic Paulo Sergio Duarte points out, we suffered from "a state of late modernity." International artistic trends were often exhibited in Brazil many years after they were made and only in the 1950s with the industrialization and modernization of our institutional system did we come to have a shortened interval between our awareness about what was being produced in Europe and America and seeing it locally– at the São Paulo Bienal, which took on this preponderant role in 1951 with its first edition, which also allowed Brazilian works to be relatively visible abroad as well. In the latter instance, I'm citing the cases of Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, and Sergio Camargo who mounted important shows in London galleries, such as Signals and Whitechapel, at the beginning of the 1960s, and also Almir Mavignier's prominant role at the New Tendencies exhibition in Zagreb.

    Returning to the encounter between the two young artists, Palatnik, who was still then working as a figurative painter, received an invitation from Mavignier around 1947-8 to visit the Psychiatric Hospital Pedro II, under the direction of Dra. Nise de Silveira. When he saw the work being made by the schizophrenic patients, he couldn't understand how they produced such dense images without every having been to art school. The artist said, "I thought I was a resolved artist. I decided to start over. The discipline of the studio didn't stand for anything anymore." It was the moment that he abandoned figurative art and dedicated himself to his pioneering project: Kinechromatic Devices. "Painting with light" and constructing delicate forms with an economy of gestures, the artist brought playfulness to Brazilian visual arts while dialoging with Calder, he broke boundaries between painting and sculpture to the degree that we can no longer tell what format the artist is using.

    His fascination for light play and its symbolic relationship with the kaleidoscope structure –the artist himself points this out in his essays – and not with cinema, can't mask what is singularly important in his work, the intensive dialog with the kinetic art production of Europe and South America, while marking his own pioneering efforts to amplify the concept of painting. If painting was experimenting with new processes to establish links with performance in the 1950s and 60s, as in the case of Pollack's "drips" or Yves Kline's Anthropométries (1960), for Palatnik the extended notion of painting came in a more delicate and less noisy, but no less intense or important, form.

    Another interesting point is the particular style in which technology stands out in his work. Whether in his Kinechromatic Devices, Kinetic Objects, or Progressives, the artist does not give up the craftsmanship, illustrated by the fact that the artist makes his own work and that he uses his own tools and materials, such as glass, wire, cardboard, and metal rods, inexpensive and abundant materials in the commercial market. The first Kinechromatic Device – made in 1951 and exhibited at the 1st São Paulo Bienal – was constructed by taking a fan apart and appropriating the motor.

    In the 1970s he makes his series Progressives, "paintings" formed from intervals of paper-thin sheet sequences of jacaranda wood mounted together rhythmically. Taking advantage of the materiality of streaks, knots, and other natural internal markings, our eye runs over the structure of drawings that delineate a dynamic body in the organic material. The sequencing of cuts in the surface of the material creates waves that vary depending on the depth and location of the cut, constituting its own dynamic. Palatnik aligns himself with the kinetic research of Americans and Europeans, as we see his work dialoging with artists like Richard Anuszkiewicz and how he demonstrates his thoughts about Gestalt through his work. But it's in the materials and the form he's chosen, where his interests become apparent and make his work stand out substantially in relation to that of his colleagues.

    Both Palatnik and Mavignier were important for their work in the field of design. What Bauhaus defended – a circuit of artistic practices with industrial efficiency – was somehow put into practice by these two artists. Palatnik makes concrete art dynamic, beyond its usual course, by integrating it into everyday life through his made furniture, and Mavignier in the preparation of posters, among other media.

    Mavignier, an artist schooled at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, where he studied under Max Bill, developed a kind of pointillism in pure colors that interact rhythmically causing optical vibrations in his paintings. Juxtaposing tiny dots, and dots of pigments in varying intensity, he reveals the optical illusion in the relationship between figure and background. They are gentle embossed tones, rising and falling in perverse order to propose the dots' illusory movement. This series of colored geometric shapes appears organized in such a way that suggest some specific possibilities of variation and reading: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or even reversing the positive-negative relation between the shapes and intervals, determining illusory movement, as if the very picture plane was subjected to tensions and drawn variables.

    Translated by Alexandra Joy Forman

    Felipe Scovino is a professor of history of art at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He is an independent curator, and his recent projects as curator include: Lygia Clark: a retrospective (Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, 2012, co-curator Paulo Sergio Duarte) and Abraham Palatnik (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Brasília, 2013). Scovino completed a PHD at the School of Fine Arts, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2007, an MFA at the School of Fine Arts, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2003 and a BFA in History at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2000.
Contacts
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
ABRAHAM PALATNIK (b. 1928) Untitled (Prototype for Kinechromatic device), circa 1955
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