That magnet for mass movements, the University
of California at Berkeley, had a new one Friday:
not for free speech, free l-o-v-e or free Vietnam,
but for movement for the sake of movement — in
The happily-doomed, miniscule old steam plant
known as the University Art Gallery which clocks
in 200 people on an average abstract-expressionist
day almost burst its bricks prematurely as 4200
fascinated skeptical and excited people came to
look, listen, pedal and push at the first comprehensive
show of kinetic sculpture in the United States.
In the evening, a highly engaged audience of 850
packed into a lecture hall, lined the aisles and
overflowed into an adjacent room to hear four kinetic
sculptors air their views on whether it was all
art, science or gadgetry.
Noting that Stanford had a linear reactor on exhibit
in its art gallery, Peter Selz, UC's new museum
director who organized the kinetic show, peppered
the speakers with statements and questions about
their work. The four of 14 European and American
sculptors represented by 40 works in the exhibit
were as different as their creations.
George Rickey, 59, American, raised and educated
in Scotland, "America's leading theorist of
the Movement Movements," greying, a man of
stature, thoughtfulness and precision, with a calm
conviction that kinetic works are one new development
carrying along the ancient tradition of sculpture.
Len Lye, 65, New Zealander, a feisty, goateed
charmer, sunglasses pushed up on bald head, popping
up from his chair to make a point or a joke with
ebullient vigor, a man who wants to feel motion
deeply, right down to his eyeball socket. "NO!" an
emphatic denial that his sculpture is in an old
tradition. It's a separate category of art. It's
making discoveries about our sense of being magical
that counts. It's putting the feeling of zizzz
Harry Kramer, 41, a merry sprite of a German
who lives between two windmills in France and loves
the speed of Las Vegas where his wife is a showgirl.
Barber, actor, soldier, prisoner-of-war, dancer,
filmmaker. A small, wiry bundle of kinetic energy
with a wide, half-hoop gremlin smile and a bubble
of quizzical laughter for profound theories. The
art of the space-time age? Absurd. It's not so
much physics as show business.
Takis, 41, with the black, somber eyes of a Greek
who has known Nazi occupation, fought in the resistance,
endured prison and exile. He's not familiar with
Einstein's theory of relativity, but he knows his
Plato and Plato said that the person who makes
the invisible evident is a creator. Whether scientist
or artist. And Takis feels in his bones the need
of science and art for each other: to "break
this isolation which is the tragedy of our times."
"I agree with everybody!" Len Lye fills
the air with invisible bobbing exclamation points. "There
are two dichotomies here. Art and science. And
in the end, they are after the same thing. Truth!!"
Cries of "Yes! Yes!" fill the room.
Lye beams. An old March of Times director himself,
he grandly directs the TV cameraman:"Take
a cutaway here of this marvelous looking audience."
A tape is played with the recorded sounds and
music of kinetic sculpture. A needle attracted
by the electromagnetic spool behind it in Takis'
work gives off a plaintive Greek sound, like the
plucking of a lyre. Kramer's "Foot" of
meshed iron-wire and tiny motors has the clang
of a tin can kicked around street corners. Lye's
great sheet-metal "Storm King" in his
New York studio resounds with the rustling wind,
the fast lapping of waves driven onto a bleak Maine
coast and silence after the storm. The audience
ends it with enthusiastic applause.
It's their time for questions and they come quickly. "When
will the scientists be called in so the exhibits
won't be out of order?" (Laughter).
Lye, good -naturedly. "The point is with
my stuff which is always breaking down, all they
have to do is fix it. If Tinguely were here, he'd
say, 'It's supposed to go that way."
"Why isn't Alexander Calder represented?"
Rickey: "I didn't select the show and I didn't
select the questions, but I did write the introduction
to the catalogue and it's called DIRECTIONS in
Kinetic Sculpture." Those DIRECTIONS need
some kind of exhibition now and I don't think Calder
"One of the great pleasures in sculpture
is the tactile sense , the ability to feel a Rodin,
a Brancusi," said Ted Odza, visiting sculptor. "Will
movement replace the tactile?" From the audience,
Mrs. Rickey interjects, "You can't touch a
Brancusi! Who owns one?"
Rickey, almost with anger, "Sculpture is
IMPRISONED in the idea of tactility."
"Communication specialists say art is headed
for a breakdown, that it's going to have to be
concerned with the total environment."
Rickey, sardonically, "The total environment's
a lot of work."
Artist Karl Kasten, "Why isn't Rube Goldberg
"Rube, with all that inventiveness, is doing
it for fun and games," Lye responded. "But
art isn't fun and isn't games."
San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 1966