About us
Kinetic Art Collage

Kinetic Art

Started: 1954

Kinetic Art Timeline

Important Art and Artists of Kinetic Art

The below artworks are the most important in Kinetic Art - that both overview the major ideas of the movement, and highlight the greatest achievements by each artist in Kinetic Art. Don't forget to visit the artist overview pages of the artists that interest you.

Bicycle Wheel (1913)
Artwork Images

Bicycle Wheel (1913)

Artist: Marcel Duchamp

Artwork description & Analysis: Bicycle Wheel is famous above all as the first example of a "readymade" sculpture, an art object comprised of commonplace parts not manufactured by the artist. However, it has also been seen as the first work of Kinetic art, by virtue of the fact that the wheel affixed to the stool can be spun. For Duchamp, this movement was essential to the object's effect; "I enjoyed looking at it," he said, "just as I enjoyed looking at the flames dancing in a fireplace. It was like having a fireplace in my studio, the movement of the wheel reminded me of the movement of flames." Even though the piece was made outside of the context of the Kinetic art movement of the 1950s, artists of that time looked upon it as an important precursor, one that justified their claim that there had been a tradition of Kinetic art throughout the early 20th century. The importance of Duchamp's piece to the later Kinetic artists also reflected the influence of Dada on the later movement. For while some Kinetic artists were optimistic about technology, others were skeptical, and they drew inspiration from works such as this, in which the wheel turns almost senselessly, secured in one spot and going nowhere.

Bicycle wheel on wooden stool

Arc of Petals (1941)
Artwork Images

Arc of Petals (1941)

Artist: Alexander Calder

Artwork description & Analysis: Before Alexander Calder trained as an artist, he took a degree in mechanical engineering, and this laid the foundations for what would later be an important and early contribution to Kinetic art. He is most associated with mobiles, which he began to make in the early 1930s, which employ motorized or hand-cranked mechanisms to move an array of different forms in a predetermined way. These later gave way to the works for which he is most famous: non-mechanized mobiles driven by air currents. Early versions of these often used materials such as glass or pottery, while later mobiles were generally comprised of flat metal pieces painted in solid red, yellow, blue, black, or white. In these works, movement is produced naturally and accidentally by virtue of passing breezes. Taking the theme of movement that was central to Kinetic art, Calder's later wind-blown mobiles reflected its harmonious and entirely natural aspects, suggesting that these forces can provide some of the subtle pleasures of human life.

Painted and unpainted sheet aluminum, iron wire, and copper rivets - Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy

Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) (1919-20)
Artwork Images

Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) (1919-20)

Artist: Naum Gabo

Artwork description & Analysis: Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) was initially created by Naum Gabo to demonstrate kinetic energy to a class. Here a metal strip stand is mechanized to create a motion that produces the illusion of volume. The abstracted form embraces the elements of time and space in a constructed form. It reflects the origins of Kinetic art in some of the radical approaches to sculpture born with Constructivism. What is remarkable about the object is that, when immobile and stationary, it fails entirely as a sculpture, being nothing more than a vertical strip of metal; it is only movement that lends it interest, and that interest is the product of an optical illusion. In that sense, the artistry of Gabo's Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) is a fleeting thing - nothing more than a mirage that can be gone in an instant.

Metal, painted wood and electrical mechanism

Monument to the Third International (1919-20)
Artwork Images

Monument to the Third International (1919-20)

Artist: Vladimir Tatlin

Artwork description & Analysis: Monument to the Third International is Tatlin's most famous work, as well as the most important catalyst to the formation of the Constructivist movement and, therefore, Kinetic art. The tower, which was never fully realized, was intended to act as a fully functional conference space and propaganda center for the Communist Third International. Its steel spiral frame was to stand at 1,300 feet, which would have made it the tallest structure in the world at the time. It was to be taller, more functional and therefore more beautiful - by Constructivist standards - than the Eiffel Tower. There were to be three glass units, a cube, a cylinder, and a cone, which would provide functional space for meetings, and would rotate once per year, month, and day, respectively. For Tatlin, steel and glass were the essential materials of modern construction. They symbolized industry, technology, and the machine age, and the constant motion of the geometrically shaped units embodied the dynamism of modernity.

Wood, iron, and glass - Destroyed

Homage to New York (fragment) (1960)
Artwork Images

Homage to New York (fragment) (1960)

Artist: Jean Tinguely

Artwork description & Analysis: Homage to New York was constructed in three weeks in 1960 in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and involved the talents of several artists and engineers, among them Robert Rauschenberg. It was blown to pieces in a public performance of noise and light in only 27 minutes. Consisting of several mechanized parts that result in the self-destruction of the artwork, it contained pieces of metal, wheels, bicycle horns, and motors. The parts jutted out into space to create an entanglement of abstracted forms. The machine fragments worked together to complete tasks that eventually led to its destruction. Homage to New York is typical of the anarchic and satirical side of the Kinetic art movement, and reflects the skepticism among many of its followers about the possibility of mechanization and modernization. Homage to New York is like a mechanized Frankenstein that turns on its own and destroys itself in a parable for the modern world.

Painted metal, wood, rubber tires - Destroyed

Blaze (1964)
Artwork Images

Blaze (1964)

Artist: Bridget Riley

Artwork description & Analysis: The zigzag black and white lines in Blaze create the perception of a vortex. As the brain interprets the image, the alternating pattern appears to shift back and forth; the interlocking lines add depth to the form as it rhythmically curves around the center of the page. And, although the image is black and white, prismatic color appears when the eye focuses on the image. The perception of motion in what is a static object demonstrates the interest in virtual movement that occupied the Op art wing of the Kinetic movement. The pulsating quality of the work also makes it reminiscent of an important predecessor of the movement, Marcel Duchamp's Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics) (1925), in which a moving, circular design was used to create the impression of movement. Some critics have likened the movement in that piece to bodily rhythms, and in that respect the Demisphere - and Riley's Blaze - points to the links between mechanized and human movement that interested many Kinetic artists in the 1950s and 1960s.

Screen print on paper - The Institute of Contemporary Prints



By submitting the above you agree to The Art Story privacy policy.

Kinetic Art Image

Related Art and Artists

Corner Counter-Relief (1914)
Artwork Images

Corner Counter-Relief (1914)

Movement: Constructivism

Artist: Vladimir Tatlin

Artwork description & Analysis: Tatlin's Counter-Reliefs were a vital part of his developing ideas, and they form a bridge between the influence of Cubism on his work, and the birth of Constructivism. It is typical of this development that Corner Counter-Relief conforms neither to the conventional format of painting or sculpture, because Constructivism would aspire to display those old fashioned forms. However, its placement in the corner of a room also echoed the traditional site of religious icons in a pious Russian household - hence Tatlin suggests that modernity and experiment should be Russia's new gods. The idea for the series may have come from the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture (1912), a volume by the Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni, in which he calls on sculptors, "Let's split open our figures and place the environment inside them." The way in which the object spans the corner changes the space of the room, and establishes a unique relationship to the surrounding environment. The diagonal wires are evocative of a musical instrument, and they were perhaps inspired by Tatlin's experience as a musical instrument maker.

Iron, copper, wood and strings - State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Sphere bleue de Paris (2000)
Artwork Images

Sphere bleue de Paris (2000)

Movement: Op Art

Artist: Jesus Rafael Soto

Artwork description & Analysis: Soto, a Venezuelan who came to France in 1950, was another of the many South American artists who made such an important contribution to Op and Kinetic art. The globe-like form in Sphere bleue de Paris appears to defy gravity, suggesting an energetic power-source, a world or universe. It is created by thin strands of blue rubber tubing, evenly spaced, and moved with a gentle wind or slight touch. The tubing creates a segmented sphere that appears to dissolve into thin air as the viewer circles it. Soto began making such works in the mid-1960s, and although this piece was created many years after the Op art movement went into decline, it demonstrates the endurance of many of the movement's personalities and their ideas. An optical illusion is conjured in order to depict a motif that speaks softly and mystically of the possibilities of science.

Wood and paint construction with aluminum rods, lamps, and rubber tubing

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
[Accessed ]