“All the things that look like they’re moving in this piece are actually still, and all the things that look still are actually moving,” explains conceptual artist David Rokeby.
The Canadian-born, New York-based artist has created a kinetic sculpture titled “One Million [Do]llars” that, at first glance, looks like nothing—a series of seemingly random gold and silver painted lines on a bed of sand. But when the sculpture is tilted, some lines appear to move while others remain stationary.
Tilt your head just a little and you’ll see what he means.”—from Kinetic Art by Liza Foreman
This sculpture is called Fontana, and it was made by Isamu Noguchi. It’s a sculpture, but it’s also the centerpiece of a fountain. It spins, but the water flowing through the fountain doesn’t move it. Instead, it’s moved by air currents.
The sculpture was one of Noguchi’s early attempts to create art that combined movement and water. The thing about Fontana is that you have to see it from a specific angle in order to be able to see how it moves at all. You have to stand in just the right spot, look straight down at Fontana from above, and tilt your head back just so in order to see the movement.
Tilt too far and you won’t see anything; tilt too little and you won’t be able to tell which way is up or down.
This is what I mean when I say that kinetic art is not entirely still: some kinds of kinetic art move only if you’re moving (or tilted).
When he started work on what would become “Kinetic Light,” in 1958, the sculptor George Rickey was already a successful artist. But it wasn’t until he visited the Bell Labs pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair that he had his eureka moment.
Rickey watched from below as a visitor stood on an elevated platform and tilted her head back to see a cylinder of light and metal that hung from the ceiling. The sculpture spun, and as it did, the light and reflections from its metal parts danced across her face. She looked like she was wearing jewelry.
The woman, says Rickey, was so enchanted by the experience that she remained there for 25 minutes — and this was a fairgoer who had traveled thousands of miles to see dozens of futuristic attractions. This is what Rickey realized: If you could create something beautiful and new, people would come to look at it even though they couldn’t understand how it worked.
Tilting your head is an interesting way to view art since much of it has been created with movement in mind; kinetic art, dance-based art or sculpture with moving parts often relies on our ability to follow its evolution over time as well as its current state. But art also tends to be about more
Of the many kinetic sculptures created over the past century, we couldn’t help but fall in love with this one. Designed by sculptor John Alexander, you can see “Chorus” spinning above. The piece is made of 793 steel rods and is meant to look like a musical instrument. The sculpture was originally designed as a tribute to Ludwig van Beethoven, who composed his famous 9th symphony using four motifs.
I find myself staring at a 25-foot tall sculpture of a human face, tilted 90 degrees to one side. The head is in profile, its eyes closed as if asleep. Its chin is tilted up and its mouth slightly open. A few years back, I would have been the first to tell you that tilting a sculpture like this 90 degrees would be a pretty silly idea–a gimmick. That’s because I was unaware of the work of Naoki Kawamura, an artist who has made it his life mission to tilt things.
Tilted Sculpture by Naoki Kawamura | See It in 3D
Kawamura’s sculpture first caught my eye when I spied it from the window of a taxi while visiting London in 2013. It stood just across the street from St Paul’s Cathedral, and if it had not been there, I would have missed it completely. The sculpture is created with metal rods and sheets–the same materials used to build scaffolding–all painted white. On its own, the sculpture wouldn’t be much to look at; but seen through a tilted frame of reference, it becomes something entirely different. It is jarring and captivating at once, drawing you in with its complexity and depth.
“This piece is an
Visitors to the Bronx Museum of the Arts will notice that one of the pieces on display is a large, round metallic sculpture that looks like it’s made up of smaller disks. In fact, this sculpture is actually an optical illusion, and it’s made up of a series of half-spheres that appear to be disks when viewed from certain angles. The piece itself is called “Forever,” and it was created by Ray Smith in 1992. Smith worked on Forever for years, perfecting it so that each disk appears to be spinning at a different speed. While visitors can’t actually see the spinning, they can hear it as a result of the movement. The piece is meant to be interactive; visitors are encouraged to explore it in different positions and observe how they affect how they perceive its shape.”
A kinetic sculpture is a work of art that moves. The term “kinetic sculpture” may be used to refer to the artwork itself, or to the physical object that makes the artwork move. Examples include mobiles and wind-driven sculptures, but there are many other kinds.
The movements may be regular, as in the pendulum of a grandfather clock; irregular, as in the swaying branches of a tree; or random, as in a bouncing ball. Kinetic art often uses electronic devices or computers to make moving sculptures which are responsive to users’ interaction or to various conditions in their environment.
A work of art that does not move is not considered a kinetic sculpture. Examples include mobile installations and environmental sculpture, for instance the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude who wrap buildings and sites in fabric or other materials.*