Kinetic art is art that features motion or relies on movement for effect. Kinetic artwork is frequently multi-dimensional and may feature natural movement or movement that relies on automation of some form. The art movement was popular during the 1950s but many of its concepts can be traced back to far earlier in the century and even to the 1800s. Impressionists and some sculptors like Auguste Rodin were interested in the concept of artistic movement and tried to capture movement in their works; however, it wasn’t until the surreal art period of the early twentieth century that more pronounced interest and theories began to take shape.
During the Surreal and Dada periods, artists and sculptors wanted to create visual experiences that could even be described as interactive in nature. In many ways, the mechanical advances of the era informed the development of the Kinetic Art concept. As an art form, Kinetic Art is typically divided into two forms: virtual movement and actual movement. Virtual movement gives the impression of movement but artworks and their individual components don’t actually move. Many Kinetic artists were concerned with the appearance of how things look when movement is added. Sculptures and mobiles were popularly used mediums for Kinetic artists that wanted to explore natural and automated movement.
Kinetic Art hit its stride in 1955 at the Paris exhibition called “Le Mouvement.” At this point Kinetic Art became internationally regarded as a movement in its own right. Since earlier Kinetic works such as those achieved by Marcel Duchamp were simply associated with Surreal Art or Dada, works from the 1950s and 1960s were viewed under the label of Kinetic Art. Artists who created Kinetic artworks include Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Vladimir Tatlin. Later Kinetic artists include David Madalla, Yaacov Agam, Heinz Mac, and Abraham Palatnik.
Although Kinetic Art was more or less abandoned by 1970 in favor of more digital art forms, some artists still experiment with artworks featuring movement. In fact, the MIT Museum recently (2013) hosted an exhibition of Kinetic artworks called “5000 Moving Parts.” Some works that are viewed as precursors to modern Kinetic Art include Le Ballet Espagnol (1862) by Edouard Manet, At the Races (1877-1880) by Edgar Desgas, and Atelier sur Seine (1876) by Claude Monet. Celebrated modern works of Kinetic Art include Red Mobile (1956) by Alexander Calder, Four Squares in Square Arrangement (1969) by George Rickey, and Standing Wave (1919-1920) by Naum Gabo.