Rio de Janeiro

Abraham Palatnik, Aparelho Cinecromático (Kinechromatic Device), 1969, lamps, motor, electromagnets, colored lights, acrylic scrim, 46 x 27 1/2 x 7 7/8".

Abraham Palatnik, Aparelho Cinecromático (Kinechromatic Device), 1969, lamps, motor, electromagnets, colored lights, acrylic scrim, 46 x 27 1/2 x 7 7/8".

Abraham Palatnik

Anita Schwartz Galeria | Rio de Janeiro

Abraham Palatnik, Aparelho Cinecromático (Kinechromatic Device), 1969, lamps, motor, electromagnets, colored lights, acrylic scrim, 46 x 27 1/2 x 7 7/8".

To stand “before a painting without emptying the idea of sculpture”: This is the crux of Abraham Palatnik’s work as described by Felipe Scovino in the forthcoming catalogue for the artist’s recent exhibition in Rio. With this in mind, one can conceive the ways in which Palatnik’s “Objetos Cinéticos” (Kinetic Objects) expand on modernist transformations in the relation between the two mediums. Begun in 1964, the ongoing series uses metal filaments to support colorful abstract forms that are put in motion via motors and electromagnets. Aware of the painted mobiles of Alexander Calder (who exhibited in Brazil in the 1940s and ’50s), Palatnik goes beyond them by engaging technology, producing kinetic pictorial-sculptural compositions that also incorporate sound—a good reminder that Palatnik’s work relates not only to painting and sculpture but to other media and, importantly, moves beyond the supports traditionally aligned with art.

The physical structure of Palatnik’s Aparelho Cinecromático (Kinechromatic Device), 1969, houses a “CPU” made from a motor with gears that controls its lamps, regulating their timing and sequence. Accordingly, the Plexiglas surface reveals compositions of red, yellow, and orange lights that slowly morph into gray, green, and blue; or displays complementary colors such as red and green, while white light intermittently makes visible the shadowy silhouettes of its internal mechanisms. Rather than approximating sculpture, the device mimics television: Its boxlike exterior frames a moving picture made of light. Palatnik’s first experiments with moving light date back to 1949, and though his early efforts might seem reminiscent of lava lamps, they were developed years before their kitsch counterpart. Because such work challenged dominant understandings of artistic mediums at the time, his similarly constructed Azul e roxo em primeiro movimento (Blue and Purple in First Movement), 1951, was only begrudgingly included in the São Paulo Bienal that year. But by a twist of fate, the jury awarded it an honorable mention, and the work holds a privileged place in the history of kinetic art today.

Palatnik’s chromo-kineticism situates him within a generation of postwar artists that includes Lucio Fontana and Jean Tinguely, whose abstraction was similarly informed by technology and by the formal possibilities of televison; each produced work for the purpose of televisual broadcast and reception well before Pop and video art. Later, Palatnik became interested in the traces of movement immanent to nature. The exhibition included two stunning works made of Brazilian hardwood, part of his “Progressões” (Progressions) series, begun in 1962 and continuing through the mid-’70s. The artist aligned the alternating regions of darker and lighter wood grains to produce delicate patterns of suggested growth. The warmth of the natural resource stood in contrast to the three works composed of car paint on cardboard, all 1988, in which the industrial material together with the “cooler” aesthetic evokes 1950s Concrete painting. Finally, Palatnik’s ongoing “W” series of paintings, begun around 2004 and executed in acrylic on wood, comprised approximately one-third of the thirty-one works in the exhibition. Given the artist’s sustained interest in light and movement, these works’ undulating stripes and staggered color striations call to mind patterns of signal interruptions on a television screen. If technological advance requires the reduction of “noise” for information’s successful transmission, here Palatnik might be said to deploy the beauty of an otherwise unwelcome visual rhythm toward expanding what is perceptible through art.

Kaira M. Cabañas