Abraham Palatnik

Abraham Palatnik (Natal, RN, 1928 - Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 2020). Kinetic artist, painter, draftsman. Considered one of the pioneers of the so-called kinetic art in Brazil, he expands the paths of visual arts by relating art, science and technology. In a creative way, and throughout his more than 60-year career, he develops machines with various artistic and aesthetic experimentations.

In 1932, he moved with his family to the region where the state of Israel is now located. From 1942 to 1945, he studied at the Montefiori Technical School in Tel Aviv, and specialized in explosion engines. He began his art studies at the studio of painter Haaron Avni (1906-1951) and sculptor Sternshus and studied aesthetics with Shor. He attended the Tel Aviv Municipal Art Institute from 1943 to 1947, where he took classes in drawing, painting, and aesthetics. He produced paintings of landscapes, portraits, and still lifes. The critic Frederico Morais (1936) comments on the drawings from this period, saying that "in graphite, the line is agile, fluent, almost lyrical. In charcoal drawing, "the black trace is firm, solid, realistic, sometimes expressionistic." [1]

Palatnik returns to Brazil in 1948 and settles in Rio de Janeiro. He lived with the artists Ivan Serpa (1923-1973), Renina Katz (1925) and Almir Mavignier (1925). With the latter, he visited the house of the art critic Mário Pedrosa (1900-1981) and became acquainted with the work of Dr. Nise da Silveira (1905-1999), at the Engenho de Dentro Psychiatric Hospital.

The contact with the artists and the conceptual discussions with Mário Pedrosa made Palatnik break away from the conventional criteria of composition. Said the artist, "The impact of the visits to Engenho de Dentro and the conversations with Mário Pedrosa demolished my convictions about art." [2] Palatnik stopped thinking about the quality of the work based on the realistic handling of paints and the association of art with motif. His painting and sculpture abandoned the school criteria of composition and moved towards free relationships between forms and colors.

Around 1949, he began studies in the field of light and movement. After painting some constructive canvases, he began to design machines in which color appears to move. Based on these experiments, he created canvas boxes with lamps that move through mechanisms driven by motors. Mário Pedrosa called the inventions Aparelhos Cinecromáticos, shown for the first time in 1951, at the 1st Bienal Internacional de São Paulo. In his first text about Palatnik, Pedrosa described these apparatuses as boxes in which he "projects onto the canvas or any other semitransparent material compositions of colored forms in motion."[3] The work is pioneering in the artistic use of artificial light sources.

In 1953 the artist exhibited new Cinecromáticos, at the 2nd Bienal Internacional de São Paulo and at the 1st National Exhibition of Abstract Art, at the Hotel Quitandinha. His involvement with constructive issues and the permanent dialog with artists such as Ivan Serpa and Almir Mavignier led him to participate in the creation of the Grupo Frente, in 1954. In the same year he exhibited in the group's first group show, at Galeria Ibéu in Rio de Janeiro.

From 1959 on, he took the movement into the three-dimensional field. He created works in which electromagnetic fields triggered small objects placed in closed boxes. At the same time as he invented pieces with which he explored the technological possibilities of art, the artist painted on two-dimensional surfaces. In 1962, he began the Progressões series, in which he composed optical effects by using bands on a surface. In these works, he used materials such as wood, cardboard, rope, and polyester.

In 1964, the Objetos Cinéticos were born. The artist created wire sculptures, colored shapes, and wires that moved with motors and electromagnets. The pieces resemble the mobiles by the American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898), but differ from them in that they move with mechanical regularity according to planned dynamics. The Aparelhos Cinecromáticos were exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1964. Participation in this show gave him international projection, and he came to be considered one of the forerunners of kinetic art. This recognition led him to participate in 1964 in the international kinetic art show Mouvement 2, at Galeria Denise René, in Paris. Frederico Morais organized, in 1999, retrospective shows of Palatnik at Itaú Cultural, in São Paulo, and at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea (MAC-Niterói).

By creating compositions that start from color, but go beyond the limits of painting, the artist is acknowledged as a pioneer in exploring technological achievements in Brazilian avant-garde creation, enabling machines to generate works of art.

1. MORAIS, Frederico, Abraham Palatnik: a pioneer of technological art. In: RETROSPECTIVA Abraham Palatnik: a trajetória de um artista inventor. São Paulo: Itaú Cultural, 1999, p. 09.
2. Idem, ibidem, p. 10.
3. PEDROSA, Mário, Intróito à Bienal. In: AMARAL, Aracy (org.). Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte. Rio de Janeiro, MAM 1977. p.170.

ABRAHAM Palatnik. In: ENCICLOPÉDIA Itaú Cultural de Arte e Cultura Brasileiras. São Paulo: Itaú Cultural, 2021. Available at: <http://enciclopedia.itaucultural.org.br/pessoa9891/abraham-palatnik>. Accessed on: June 25, 2021. Encyclopedia entry. ISBN: 978-85-7979-060-7