Kinesthesia at Palm Springs Art Museum

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Ideas about the ways color, light and movement can affect our emotions and our thinking were explored widely by modern artists Paris in their largely abstract art. Less well known is the role played by artists from Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Cuba and, especially, Argentina. That may no longer be the case thanks to the exhibition Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969 at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Installation view of Julio Le Parc’s Continuel-lumiére avec formes en contorsion, 1966/2012
Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969
Palm Springs Art Museum
Photograph by Lance Gerber

The show of some 50 works of art explores the ways in which a handful of artists made art that moved physically — kinetically — or as an optic illusion. Such work initially gained attention in Le Mouvement, a 1955 show at Galerie Denise René in Paris that brought about the term Kinetic art. A number of Argentinian and Venezuelan artists had come to Paris to work and were shown alongside artists like the more established Duchamp and Calder.

Installation view of Julio Le Parc’s Cloison á lames réfléchissantes, 1966/2005
"Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969,"
Palm Springs Art Museum
Photograph by Lance Gerber

The piece that greets visitors to the museum is by one of the better known artists in the show, Argentine Julio Le Parc. A giant scarlet diamond superimposed with vertical bars of the same red vibrates and changes shape when viewed frontally, at an angle, or while walking past. This piece, Closion a lames a refleschissantes (1966-2005), sets the tone for the other abstract art in the show.

Gyula Kosice, La cuidad hidroespacial, 1946-1972 Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969
Palm Springs Art Museum
Photograph by Lance Gerber

The most bizarre and novel moment for even the most seasoned art observers has to be an installation by Argentine Gyula Kosice’s La Ciudad Hidroespacial. Futuristic cities built of Plexiglas are suspended from the ceiling of a gallery with dark blue walls. Overhead spot lighting sends reflections and shadows across the floor. Illuminated screens of stellar space are embedded in the walls. It like walking into a film set though more magical and mysterious.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation, 1965/2017
"Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969"
Palm Springs Art Museum
Photograph by Lance Gerber

The highlight of the show, undoubtedly, is Chromosaturation (1965/2017) by Argentine Carlos Cruz-Diez. Several open and interconnected rooms with overhead bulbs of light shift in color from pastel to intense. The experience is different for each person. The longer the visit, the deeper the effect. (Cruz-Diez is also responsible for the tropically-colored pedestrian cross walk now in front of The Broad.) (Alma Ruiz brought the work of Cruz-Diez to MOCA in her important 2010 Suprasensorial exhibition.) As early as 1965, when Cruz-Diez designed these three rooms lit with red, blue and green, he explained, "Colour becomes a situation happening in space, without the help of form, or even a support, and free of cultural conventions." Ideas about light and space and temporal art percolated in Southern California of the 1960s but it has become clear that they were being explored internationally around the same time.

It may take some kinetic forces to get viewers out to Palm Springs but the show is an enlightening experience.

Curators Dan Cameron and María José Herrera have brought together these works of art under the aegis of the Getty’s PSTLA/LA initiative. (An ideal companion exhibition, in terms of understanding once under-recognized artists of South America, Making Art Concrete is on view at the Getty Museum.)

Kinesthesia continues through January 15, 2018.