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Geometric Abstraction and Kinetic Art in Latin America

Geometric Abstraction and Kinetic Art in Latin America

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore Geometric Abstraction and Kinetic Art in Venezuela.

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Tutorial

An overview of geometric abstraction and kinetic art in Latin America.

Video Transcription

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Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about Geometric Abstraction and Kinetic Art in Latin America. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. As soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, discuss the development of Geometric Abstractionism and Kinetic Art in Latin America, and identify examples of Geometric Abstractionist artwork and Kinetic Art.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. The first key term is Neoplasticism, also called the style, or De Stijl, characterized by qualities of planes, primary colors, and vertical and horizontal lines.

Constructive Universalism, a term attributed to the artwork of its originator, Joaquin Torres Garcia, characterized by the artist's combinations of different styles, movements, and materials.

Geometric Abstraction, an art style or technique that is most often characterized by the use of non-representational geometric and spatial compositions.

Kinetic Art, a style of art that has moving parts.

Physichromie, an art style or technique that is characterized by its use of colored screens, movement of the viewer, or light to create a wide range of tonal qualities.

And Penetrable, the characteristic of being able to be pierced or entered.

The Big Idea for today is that Geometric Abstractionism in Latin America can trace its roots to Neoplasticism, or de Stijl, in France, while Kinetic Art in Latin America was developed by two Venezuelan artists.

And we'll be looking at art from between 1932 and 1996.

All the artists from today lived or live in Paris, so we'll travel there first before returning to South America, Joaquin Torres Garcia did, starting in Montevideo, which is Torres Garcia's birthplace, and over to Caracas, Venezuela, where Carlos Cruz-Diaz was born. And a short jump over to Ciudad Bolivar, where Jesus Rafael Soto was born in 1923.

Now Joaquin Torres Garcia led a very interesting and full life, particularly academically, much too full to really do any justice to in the short time that we have today. He was born in Montevideo in 1874, and left with this family in 1891 to live and study in Barcelona, Spain.

Torres Garcia was arguably one of the most connected artists of the time, having worked with such artists as Antoni Gaudi, Joan Miro, Theo van Doesburg, and Piet Mondrian. In the late 1920's, he lived in Paris and was inspired by the work of Mondrian and Neoplasticism. Unlike Mondrian and Doesburg, he never really rejected nature. Instead, he made some changes to neoplasticism and created his own style, called Constructive Universalism, which sort of borrowed elements from a number of movements, blended them together, and created something entirely new. It seemed a fitting move, given the varied experiences, education, and encounters he had made throughout his life.

As you can see in this painting, the influence of Cubism and Neoplasticism is very apparent, specifically the emphasis on flatness and rectilinear lines and planes. Torres Garcia makes an interesting departure, though, in his use of color. He's not limited to primary colors, like other de Stijl artists, and his' development of a grid-like pattern in which he inserted symbols, in this case, a clock, letters, a key, and various geometric forms.

In 1934, he returned to Montevideo and brought with him his collective knowledge of over 40 years. His ideas spread throughout Argentina, which developed a unique version of geometric abstraction based on constructivism, breaking through and destroying the frame. During the mid-20th century, artists in Brazil developed a version of geometric abstraction that was based on depicting the illusion of movement. This idea of viewer participation was also important in the work of Venezuelan artists Carlos Cruz-Diaz and Jesus Rafael Soto.

Carlos Cruz-Diaz, who's still alive, by the way, was also very influenced by the color theorists and artists, Josef Albers and Georges Seurat, and has incorporated these ideas into his work, including his series of Physichromie paintings, one of which we see here. Now this was a series that began in 1959 and was created to explore the changes of color dependent upon factors like the amount of light or the position of the viewer. The tightly grouped parallel lines of varying color creates a really cool effect known as the More effect, which is a wavy illusion. It's a form of kinetic art which relies on optical illusions that make objects in the artwork appear to move, vibrate, and change color.

Jesus Rafael Soto was another kinetic artist that was born mere months apart from his fellow Venezuelan, Carlos Cruz-Diaz. The example we see here is a form of art that also saw growth in Brazil in the 1960's and 1970's called Penetrables. As part of Soto's experimentation with movement, the work of art appears to be semi-solid, to be a semi-solid sphere from a distance. But it's merely an optical illusion formed by the careful arrangement of colored plastic strips. In fact, the viewer can and is encouraged to walk through the work of art. Now the important role of the viewer's participation is fundamental to another genre of art we'll talk about in another lesson, called Conceptualism.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we've met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you discuss the development of Geometric Abstractionism and Kinetic Art in Latin America? Can you identify examples of Geometric Abstractionist artwork and Kinetic Art?

Once again, the big idea for today is that Geometric Abstractionism in Latin America can trace its roots to Neoplasticism, or de Stijl, in France, while Kinetic art in Latin America was developed by two Venezuelan artists.

And there you go. Thank you very much for joining me today. See you next time.

Notes on "Geometric Abstraction and Kinetic Art in Latin America"

Citations

Construction with Bell; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Joaqu%C3%ADn_Torres_Garc%C3%ADa_-_Constructivo_con_campana.jpg; Image of Cruz-Diez, Physichromie 625, Fair Use According to Wikipaintings, http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/carlos-cruz-diez/physichromie-625-1973 Soto Sphere; Creative Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soto_sphere.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Neoplasticism

    Also called ‘the style’ - or De Stijl - characterized by qualities of planes, primary colors, and vertical and horizontal lines.

  • Constructive Universalism

    A term attributed to the artwork of its originator Joaquin Torres Garcia (1874-1949) characterized by the artist’s combinations of different styles, movements and materials.

  • Geometric Abstraction

    An art style or technique that is most often characterized by the use of non-representational geometric and spatial compositions.

  • Kinetic Art

    A style of art that has moving parts.

  • Physichromie

    An art style or technique that is characterized by its use of colored screens, movement of the viewer, or light to create a wide range of tonal qualities.

  • Penetrable

    The characteristic of being able to be pierced or entered.