! Critic Judy Stone
black
books
said
home photos audio books contact judy
on film beyond film what they said selected reviews

spacer

 

Kinetic Sculpture

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 sculpture.

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 into sculpture.

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 does."

"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 here?"

"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

 

 

 

spacer