Kinetic Public Art: From 20th Century Abstract Forms to 21st Century Site-Specific Works

PUBLIC ART IN LOS ANGELES, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AND HAWAII

By Public Art in Public Places

Public Art in Public Places

Two Open Rectangles, Eccentric Variation VII - Triangular Section (1977) by George RickeyPublic Art in Public Places

Mid-20th Century Abstract Works: George Rickey and Bruce Stillman

Prominent among 20th Century kinetic wind sculptors, George Rickey brought aircraft engineering and technology to his abstract style and use of lightweight components. Bruce Stillman's work two decades later follows the abstract tradition yet illustrates a different artistic approach with more substantial kinetic components.  

Two Open Rectangles, Eccentric Variation VII - Triangular Section (1977) by George RickeyPublic Art in Public Places

"Two Open Rectangles Eccentric Variation VII - Triangular Section"

George Rickey's sculptures were engineered to withstand strong winds while remaining responsive to light breezes.

Four Lines Oblique Gyratory - Square IV (1973) by George RickeyPublic Art in Public Places

"Four Lines Oblique Gyratory - Square IV" 

Rickey designed the articulation of several simple components, such as the thin arms of this sculpture, to produce combinations of complex movements.

Perpetual Motion (circa 1996) by Bruce StillmanPublic Art in Public Places

"Perpetual Motion"

Perpetual Motion (1996) by Bruce StillmanPublic Art in Public Places

Stillman's kinetic design uses heavier and counter-balanced components suitable for desert high winds. This public artwork is in Palm Desert, California.

Making Lemonade (2006) by Nancy MooslinPublic Art in Public Places

Abstract and Site-Specific Kinetic Sculpture: Early 21st Century

The following 21st Century kinetic sculptures are presented chronologically to illustrate both the continuance of the mid-20th Century abstract art tradition and the new 21st Century site-specific public art tradition. Where abstract kinetic designs are entirely independent of their site's surrounding environment, site-specific designs respond to, reflect, and are embedded in the physical and cultural context.

Sundancer (2001) by Miles Addison PepperPublic Art in Public Places

"Sundancer"

Sundancer (2001) by Miles Addison PepperPublic Art in Public Places

Adjacent to the Oxnard Airport in California, this sculpture's kinetic design illustrates its aviation theme by simulating aircraft aileron movement.

Making Lemonade (2006) by Nancy MooslinPublic Art in Public Places

"Making Lemonade"

Making Lemonade (2006) by Nancy MooslinPublic Art in Public Places

The whimsical design and citrus theme of this kinetic work by Nancy Mooslin complements the surrounding neighborhood park and the Ventura, California community's citrus heritage.

Escena Wind Wave (2007) by Steve RiemanPublic Art in Public Places

"Escena Wind Wave"

Escena Wind Wave (2007) by Steve RiemanPublic Art in Public Places

This large abstract work serves as an iconic entry sculpture for the Escena neighborhood in Palm Springs, California.

Timekeeper (2014) by Susan NarduliPublic Art in Public Places

"Timekeeper"

Timekeeper (2014) by Susan NarduliPublic Art in Public Places

Unlike kinetic wind sculptures, Narduli's building-mounted kinetic video sculpture exhibits more than 40 hours of looped digital video animations, "generative visualization" and live feeds.

Intermittent Constancy (2015) by Paul ChilkovPublic Art in Public Places

"Intermittent Constancy"

Intermittent Constancy (2015) by Paul ChilkovPublic Art in Public Places

These quickly rotating panels produce a glittering effect from both daytime sunlight and the evening street lights in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Enagua (2015) by Ned KahnPublic Art in Public Places

"Enagua"

Enagua (2015) by Ned KahnPublic Art in Public Places

Ned Kahn's unusual site-specific design includes both an architectural tower and undulating "Kaynemaile" mesh strips to produce the billowy effect of "enagua" ["in water"] fabric.

Oasis (2015) by Douglas HollisPublic Art in Public Places

"Oasis"

Oasis (2015) by Douglas HollisPublic Art in Public Places

Hollis and Murch's site-specific project included both the kinetic sculpture (suggestive of "grasshopper" oil pump motion) and public space design.

Perpetual Motion (1996) by Bruce StillmanPublic Art in Public Places

CONCLUSION:  Kinetic Abstract Forms to Site-Specific Works

Civic engagement in public art selection, creation and site selection processes is now commonplace across the United States and the world, and community attitudes after public art is installed can also determine an artwork's ultimate fate.  Thus the 21st Century popularity of site-specific public artworks can be no surprise, as communities view public art as an opportunity to make a statement about their history, culture, and even civic-mindedness.  There is nevertheless artistic merit in the contemplative and symbolic value of abstract designs, as we have seen with the early kinetic tradition in Southern California, that may be sensitively incorporated into the 21st Century's site-specific approaches. 

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Public Art in Public Places Project 2018

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