Abraham Palatnik: Kinetic art pioneer dies from Covid-19 complications

The Brazilian artist was one of the most important abstract artists in Latin America

Abraham Palatnik, left, died due to complications from Covid-19. Right is a piece by him called 'Objeto Cinetico'. Photos: Wikimedia Commons / Photo by Julian Makey/Shutterstock
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With his installations featuring rotating discs of geometric forms echoing planetary orbs in motion, the late Abraham Palatnik was a titan of the 20th century's Kinetic art movement.

The Brazilian artist died on Saturday, May 9, in Rio De Janeiro due to coronavirus complications. He was 92.

Palatnik aimed to explore the visual effects of objects in motion.

Born in Brazil to Russian immigrants in 1919, he was considered one of the most important abstract artists in Latin America. His works were featured in the First Biennial of Sao Paulo in 1951, while retrospective exhibitions of his work have been held in Brazil since 1999.

Palatnik’s art only began to find traction in the US and Europe in the past decade, however.

New York's Museum of Modern Art exhibited one of his works from the 1950s in a survey exhibition on Kinetic Art that was one of the museum's reopening shows in 2008. The work, Kinechromatic Apparatus S-14, was made out of wood, metal, synthetic fibre as well as lightbulbs, with a motor gradually morphing the colours, throwing tidal shapes onto the artwork.

It was similar in style to this piece he created in 1964:

In 2013, his Sequencia Visual S-51 was sold at Christie's New York for $785,000, setting a record price for a Palatnik work.

In 1999, when asked about his interest in machinery by fellow Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac, Palatnik said: “Technology, in the context of human evolution, acquires meaning and becomes evident to the extent that it allows the senses a conscious access to the mechanics of the natural forces.”

However, not all of Palatnik's works contained motors and machinery. His Progressoes and W series feature wooden, acrylic or cardboard strips that still prompt the viewer to perceive motion in the pieces via optical illusion.

Even in his non-motorised pieces, Palatnik still sought to find balance between colours, shapes and dynamism: this motive was his main drive across his seven-decade career.

Brazil has lost a master craftsman, and an innovative thinker.

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