5,000 Moving Parts

On view through November 2014

Another Busy Day, This Time in Manhattan


My 20 hours to New York and back yesterday included two long bus rides, one meal at a favorite restaurant, and visits to two art fairs, The Armory Show and The Art Show, to see what I could see in kinetic art.

Art fairs, of which there are hundreds held annually, are marketplaces. They're not contemplative, they don't explain much, and they exist to sell work. But they provide visitors with the chance to see a large number of works in a relatively contained space, and to get a quick take on what the art dealers think the collectors will want to buy.

This year's iteration of The Armory Show celebrated 100 years since the Show began, and attracted exhibiting galleries whose stock ranged from works created in the early twentieth century to the very newest works available from artists' studios. The Art Show, organized by the Art Dealers Association of America for the past 25 years and held (confusingly) at the Armory on Park Avenue, included some new work as well, but focused mostly on works by artists whose reputations are already well established.

I've captured here some moments of kineticism from a very full day of looking:

Works by George Rickey (1907-2002) and Alexander Calder (1898-1976) were everywhere. There were tabletop sculptures, and a hanging piece (by Calder) and one human-sized George Rickey sculpture. With one exception, the pieces, and the way they moved, were more delicate than I’d expected, especially from Rickey, an artist better known for his monumental public sculptures than for the small pieces shown here.

There were two or three other works on view that were created at the edge of kinetic art and op art, most prominently those by Jesus Rafael Soto (1923-2005), whose “kinetic structures” created disorienting optical effects with real movement.

But the most elegant of the historic works that I saw were by Harry Bertoia, whose Altarpiece for MIT Chapel (1955) remains among the most subtle of the works in MIT’s distinguished public art collection. Bertoia's small sculptures at The Art Show generated sound with just the slightest touch.

Finally, Nick Cave's Blot, a video created this year, was entrancing. The video combines two views of a costumed dancer, creating a perfectly symmetrical pattern of his (or her?) motion. The sound from Cave’s soundsuit costume, distorted and amplified, added to the dynamism of a work that was already visually dynamic. The suit reminded me a little of Gunther Uecker's New York Dancer. And although it’s not strictly within standard definitions of kinetic work, maybe it should be. I stood and watched Blot for a long time.

It was a good day for motion.

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