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PIONNIERS ET PRECURSEURS > ABRAHAM PALATNIK > A PIONEER OF TECHNOLOGICAL ART
   
[français] - [english]


Abraham Palatnik : A Pioneer of Technological Art

by Frederico MORAIS


Abraham Palatnik was born in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, in 1928, to a family of Russian Jews that had settled there in 1919. At that time, Natal was a small city and the local economy was based on agriculture. His father and uncles were among the first to develop trade and industry on a systematic basis in Natal and introduced new business methods and manufacturing techniques. Over several decades they were active in eight different branches of industry, from furniture and ceramics to sugar refining. Palatnik himself, even today, doubles as plastic artist and industrialist.

When he was only four years old, Abraham Palatnik went to Palestine, now Israel, with his family, and it was there that he got his primary and secondary schooling. He went on to take courses in mechanics and physics and specialized in internal-combustion engines. He had been drawing since early childhood and spent four years at an atelier studying drawing (with live models), painting, and aesthetics. In the oldest drawings shown here, we see his father, Tobias (1942), and two of his teachers, Haaron Avni and Sternshus (1943). He painted landscapes, still lives, portraits and self-portraits (1944), the line in his pencil drawings is lively, fluent, and almost lyrical, while his charcoal drawings portraying his classmates at the workshop feature a heavy and dark line that is strong, solid, and realist, at times almost expressionist. In his painting he stripped his representation of all that was superfluous and rhetorical. Palatnik returned to Brazil in early 1948 and settled in Rio de Janeiro. Two decisive events were to take place that year which radically transformed his creative work in the field of art : his acquaintance with art critic Mario Pedrosa and his first visit to the Occupational Therapy Department a the D. Pedro II Psychiatric Hospital, which was located in the nearby town of Engenho de Dentro and had been founded by Nise da Silveiro two years previously.

Mario Pedrosa had by then become a leading Brazilian intellectual and was active in both art and politics. In a 1947 lecture to the Brazilian Press Association, he was the first Brazilian critic to support art created by schizophrenics. Two years later, seeking the nomination as History of Art and Aesthetics professor at the National School of Architecture, Pedrosa defended a thesis called “ On the Affective Nature of Form in Works of Art ”. This was the first text published in Brazil, and one of the first internationally, to analyze artworks using Gestalt theory.

Together, with Almir Mavignier, Palatnik was a frequent guest at the home of Mario Pedrosa, at that time constantly crowded with more politicians than artists, and he described those encounters in an interview granted to Wilson Coutinho (Jornal do Brasil, 12/5/1981), “ With all our talk of art, we soon got ride of the politicians. Pedrosa talked a great deal about psychology of the form and Gestalt. But he didn’t just talk. He was also a great listener. We were attempting to understand the nature of the creative processes and the function of the artist. I reached the conclusion that the artist’s work is to order the chaos of perception. I still believe in perception being linked to intuition. Without it, nature would be no more than chaos. ”

Palatnik was introduced to the Psychiatric Hospital in Engenho de Dentro by Mavignier, who had been running the painting workshop there for some time. “ When I saw the artistic output of some of the inmates, my preconceived notions were shattered. I knew how to handle paint and brushes, I felt secure in my knowledge and, suddenly, I met these people, who had never had any kind of training, producing works using complex and profound language ”. In a recent interview for the Museu du Imagens do Inconsciente, he added, “ For coherence there was Diniz, Carlos, Emydio ; for poetry Raphael, Isaac. Image and language were melded together. The decisive elements of figure and color were not ruled by scholarly criteria of composition, but rather by codes related to powerful forces originating in the subconscious. ” The powerful impression made by this and several successive visits together with the conversations with Pedrosa, demolished “ my ideas and convictions in relation to art. ” He then decided to drop painting and spent two years at home creating his first kinechromatic device.

This retrospective shows a portrait of Isaac, a water-color of an aspect of the Hospital in Eugenho de Dentro, and two splendid drawings by Raphael, depicting Palatnik.

Palatnik felt sure that by adopting a different technique, using the latest technology, he could bring to “ pictorial art the potential of light and motion in time and space ”. So he dropped painting and built his first two kinechromatic devices as experiments in 1949 and 1950. On a plastic screen covering the front of his devices, he projected colors and forms driven by electric motors, creating a luminous effect with its own timing. Using motors and light bulbs, he replaced paint-as a material dimension-with refracted light. The timing of the lighting was controlled from a console with switches for each lamp. The viewer sees only the colored shapes projected onto the front of the kinechromatic device. Inside there were about 600 meters of electric wires in different colors, linking 101 lamps of varying voltages, rotating several cylinders at varying speeds. Light is projected through a set of lenses and shapes and a prism to refract colors.

The first kinechromatic device was called “ Azul e Roxo em Primeiro Movimento ” (Blue and Purple in First Movement). It was shown at the 1st Sao Paulo Biennial in 1951 but was not well received. The Brazilian jury ruled it out on the ground that it did not fit in any of the categories foreseen in the regulations . However, the Biennial committee allowed it to be shown in a room allocated to Japanese artists who failed to appear. Nevertheless he was excluded from the catalogue. The work was then seen by another jury, composed of international visitors, who “ considered it to be an important manifestation of modern art, worthy of presentation at the Museu de Arte Moderna de Sao Paulo ”, and his apparatus eventually won an honorable mention. The Argentinean critic Jorge Romero Brest, master of several generations of Latin-American critics, in his long commentary on the 1st Sao Paulo Biennial, published in N°. 26 of the Ver y Estimar review, in Buenos Aires in 1951, enthusiastically praised the “ singular machine created by Abraham Palatnik and based on the kaleidoscopic principle ” in which “ diverse shapes are composed, enlivened by intense coloring that can be very soft and subtle, emerging as compositions that paintings as such would like to achieve but cannot. ”

The term kinechromatic was coined by Mario Pedrosa, who not accidentally was also the author of the first critical-analytic text on Palatnik’s invention. His article in Tribuna da Imprensa, in 1951, refers to Palatnik’s “ chromatic plastic dynamism ” in leaving aside painting and figuration to paint directly with light, attempting, for the first time in Brazil, to materialize Moholy-Nagy’s “ artistic utopia ” involving the creation of “ frescoes of light brightening entire buildings or wall with the plastic dynamism of artificial light under the control of the artist’s creative powers and inspiration. In the houses of the future a special place would be reserved for the installation of these luminous frescoes, as is already the case for radio and television. ” After looking at some of the technical aspects of the first kinechromatic device as well as several aesthetic implications, Pedrosa concluded that it was “ the true art of the future ” and “ an excellent introduction to the Biennial. ”

Pedrosa wrote another two pieces on Palatnik’s invention. In 1953, on the occasion of the presentation of his third device, at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, and again in 1960. In the first of these two texts, he highlights the fact that the new apparatus, entitled Paralelas em Azul-Laranja numa Seqüencia Horizontal (Paralells in Blue-Orange in a Horizontal Sequence), was an advance on previous versions, “ because of its precision lighting, and chiefly due to the control of the creative concept over the movement of the forms ”, and concludes, “ through the sequence of his forms and development of chromatic chords, the artist has imposed his will on the machine, enabling it to produce artworks. ”

By 1959, Palatnik had built about twenty kinechromatic devices, nine of them in that year alone. The eighth, with a four-minute sequence of green-orange images, was shown at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, in 1960, and brought several technical modifications : controls were smaller and there was less wiring (down to 60 meters) and lamps (down to 51) ; it featured a new automatic control console and two independent switches for light and movement. Observing that the technical improvement had not modified the formal repertoire, Pedrosa demands of the artist, “ with his God-given inventive genius (...) a new technical and aesthetic revolution, using electronics to attain greater freedom and variation in his kinechromatic experiments . ”

Palatnik went on to show his kinechromatic devices at the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961, and 1965, and at the Venice Biennial in 1964. The success of the “ painting machine ” in Venice brought invitations to show in both one-person and group exhibitions in Europe-Germany, France, Switzerland and England-as-well as in the United States and Israel. By 1964, Palatnik was showing alongside some of the leading names in the world of kinetic art at the Mouvement 2 exhibition organized by the Denise René Gallery in Paris, with an introduction by Jean Cassou, which then traveled to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Critic Juergen Morschel, in a long article for the Kulturspiegel newspaper of Ulm, commented on Palatnik’s one-person show at the Hochschule Museum, Saint Gallen, in 1964, saying that the “ visitor to the exhibition meets an artist who does not execute objects, but rather stages events. He is a régisseur. ” Two years later he was to take part in another leading international kinetic art event, Kunst-Licht-Kunst, at the Museum of Art in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, with a preface by Jan Leering and a long introductory text by Frank Popper, in which for the first time, he was to refer to Palatnik’s “ luminous mobiles ”, highlighting the poetic vein in his inquiries. In 1967, Popper confirmed Palatnik’s advances in the field of research into light and motion, in a synopsis in his book Naissance de l’art cinétique. In another review, highlighting the importance of the Eindhoven exhibition, Pierre Cabanne wrote in his book El Art del Siglo Veinte (1983), “ Here mention must be made, above all, of Palatnik’s kinechromatic boxes, taken up and improved by Frank Malina’s lumidynes, which are picture-boxes of electrically-driven changeable chromatic combinations. ” In a book written jointly with Pierre Restany, in 1969, L’Avant-garde au XXe siècle, Cabanne had already emphasized Palatnik’s important pioneering role in relation to Nicolas Schoffer’s inquiries into spatial dynamism. And Tomas Maldonado, the leader of the Argentine concretists-inventionists, as dean of the Ulm Higher School of Form in 1967, greeted his Brazilian colleague as “ the most important forerunner of the recent return to the aesthetics of light and motion. ”

In the United States, Palatnik held one-person exhibitions at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York, and the Pan-American Union, in Washington, D.C., both in 1965, and soon after took part in numerous group exhibitions, among them Light and Motion, at the Worcester Art Museum of Massachusetts, in 1967. Through his American agent, Palatnik took part in eleven exhibitions, a move surely designed to have him stay in the United States and make him an American artist. This was shown by his inclusion in the Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture exhibition at the University of Illinois.

Meanwhile, Palatnik had already held his first Brazilian one-person exhibition in 1965 at the Petite Galerie, in Rio de Janeiro, and had won an award at the 3rd Biennial of Cordoba, Argentina, with his kinechromatic device titled “ Visual Sequence S-81 ”. It should be emphasized that the international jury at the Cordoba Biennial consisted of Alfred Barr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and one of the first supporters of abstract art in the United States ; Sam Hunter, director of the Jewish Museum, New York ; Arnold Bode, creator of the Documenta ; Carlos Villanueva, the architect for the National University, in Caracas, where he initiated the movement for synthesis across the arts, attracting to Venezuela works by some of the most important constructive artists in the world; and finally, Aldo Pelegrini, one of the first Argentine critics to support concretist art. By this time, therefore, Palatnik was one of the most widely know Brazilian artists internationally and most of the kinechromatic devices he made during his career are to found in major public and private collections around the world.

Let us return to the chronological sequence of his career and look at the development of his oeuvre. Having dropped painting and figuration on his return to Brazil, at the same time as he was executing his “ devices ”, Palatnik developed research into new supports and materials, both in the field that might be called painting, although of an abstract-geometric character, and in the field of furniture design. In fact, he showed at the 1st National Exhibition of Abstract Art, held at Hotel Quitandinha, Petropolis, RJ, in 1953, with three of the four Grupo Frente exhibitions held at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, in 1955, and in Resende and Volta Redonda, RJ, in 1956.

In 1959, after his kinechromatic devices, there followed some works in which he explored the aesthetic potential of magnetic fields, including, in some cases, a ludic audience participation. In Mobilidade IV (Mobility IV), wooden beads are silently moved by electro-magnets. In 1983, he again took up this line of inquiry, creating a ludic object consisting of a circular glass base supporting geometric forms in different colors, directly driven by viewers controlling a magnetized rod. The positive and negative poles are used to attract or repel geometrical forms constituting fragments of a larger structure to be assembled by the viewer using the magnetized rod. This work is, in fact, a game.

In 1964, he started his work on “ kinetic objects ”, consisting of metallic rods or wires attached to wooden disks in several colors and to shapes slowly and silently rotated by motors or, in some cases, by electromagnets. There is nothing but movement in these works. In the kinechromatic devices the electromechanical part is entirely invisible : the spectator sees only the rhythmic movements of the colored light. However, the mechanical equipment is visible in these objects as Palatnik points to the aesthetic dimension of the mechanism itself.

What are the characteristics of Palatnik’s kineticism and what position does he occupy in the world of kinetic movement ? There are many interpretations of the meaning of kinetic art and they do not always converge . Frank Popper talks about an aesthetic of motion, tracing a course from the moving image to the art of movement. For Jean Clay, however, kineticism is not just that which moves, but rather it is becoming aware of the instability of the Real. Guy Brett, in his book Kinetic Art/The Language of Movement, of 1968, goes further and dislocates the idea of movement to the field of biology, seeing kinetic art as a broadening of perception, as a deepening of the biological act of living itself. It should be stressed, though, that in his interpretation, kineticism leaves behind its constructivist roots and approaches Arte Povera and Body Art. As an “ aesthetic of motion ”, kineticism does have remote predecessors in the history of art. After all, the expression of motion, which is the essence of kinetic art, was already being taken up by artists in Egypt and Greece, during the Renaissance, Baroque, and so forth, through the emergence of modern art. These predecessors can also be found in the history of technology, in some mechanical inventions which were quickly appropriated by artists for aesthetic purposes : clocks, musical boxes, Scriabin’s lux, Rimington’s colored organ, experimental movies by Leopold Survage, Viktor Eggeling, Hans Richter, among others. Richter was a member of the Dada movement and later became one of its leading historians. In his films Rythme 21 and Rythme 23 , he speaks of an “ orchestration of time ” and sees movies as “ visual art above all ”.

Palatnik deliberately narrowed his field of action, avoiding the quicksand of Arte Povera, Body Art, and the collective street happenings staged by the Visual Art Research Group of Paris. In his kinechromatic devices, he took up the binomial “ light and motion ” - while his kinetic objects focused on movements, and his ludic and rotative objects and games featured viewer participation within set rules. This work, therefore, is pure kineticism and part of the constructivist tradition. The remotest predecessors of Palatnik’s kinetic creation are those mentioned above and also Gabo and Calder. However, from he 1950s onwards, we see him constantly advancing, sometimes ahead, sometimes a little behind, but never far removed from artists such as Pol Bury, Takis or Tinguely, to mention just three of the most outstanding contemporary kineticists.

In Brazil, with his kinechromatic devices, Palatnik not only anticipated the constructivist trend, which emerged with Grupo Ruptura (Sao Paulo, 1952) and Grupo Frente (Rio de Janeiro, 1954) and which consolidated with Concretism (1956) and Neoconcretism (1959), but also founded the technological trend in Brazilian art.

Although the kinechromatic devices may be closer to painting and cinema, his kinetic objects are nearer to sculpture and design. In the devices, the mechanical gearing is invisible, reinforcing the sensation of pictorial animation. In the objects, the mechanical components are visible, part of the visual field and part of the aesthetic meaning of the work. In the devices, the continuous metamorphosis of forms and colors provokes kinesthetic effects, in the objects, movement provokes enchantment. Both devices and objects are “ machines ” and were built with the same logical rigor, but the former suggest greater ordering and control, while the objects seem more spontaneous-as if chance had played a part, as if they were toys and not machines. It is true that the kinetic objects are moved by motors or electromagnets, but the impulse behind them is that of the mobile, which is also a machine, but one worked by a source of natural energy that provides it with freshness, lightness and lyricism.

It is said that Joan Miro, after seeing the kinechromatic devices at the 1964 Venice Biennial, traveled to the Hochschule Museum in Saint Gallen, Switzerland, where Palatnik was holding a one-person exhibition, and asked the director of the museum for an armchair to spend time contemplating these “ painting machines ”. He may have seen some similarity with his own painting. Miro has often been described as a surrealist. In fact, he took part in the movement, but he went much further, not limiting himself to illustrating the concept of psychic automatism formulated by Breton. In his painting, as in Calder’s mobiles and in the kinetic objects of Palatnik, there is the purity of primeval things, of things being born, of permanent genesis. Pure Visuality. It was no accident that Breton, with his well-known dogmatism, criticized Miro’s surrealist deviations and commented that “ the interest of painting should not lie in the sensory pleasure of the colored surface, but in the enigmatic, hallucinatory, or revealing power of the image. ”

Palatnik did not heed Mario Pedrosa’s 1960 appeal to move on from electricity to electronics. In 1951, he could say, like Léger, “ I am a primitive of the future times ”. In a certain sense, he decided to remain in his role as a pioneer of kinetic art, with his kinechromatic devices as forerunners of hi-tech art in Brazil. Two years before executing his first kinetic objects, he had already begun the first of several series of progressions or progressive reliefs based on different materials : wood, paperboard, polyester, strings, etc. In 1981, when he first showed his progressions with strings, he said, “ I am not doing any more kinetic art, nor do I feel nostalgia for it. Everything confined in a system ends up dying. The only permanent thing is the potential to discipline the chaotic universe. ” In fact, his progressions are also part of kineticism. A virtual kineticism, essentially optic, that takes place on the bidimensional plane. Five years later, in an interview granted to Eduardo Kac (Folha de S. Paulo, 10/14/1986), he declared, “ if I were beginning in art, today, I would surely be doing research in something like holography and computers ”.

The raw material in the first series of progressions is wood. On visiting a joinery, Palatnik observed that scattered fragments of logs split lengthwise on the ground spontaneously contained information on nature. Each color nuance and the pattern recorded on the wood are inevitable marks left by growth situations-environmental pressures : dryness and wetness, heat and cold-as shown through the progression of knots. It is worth mentioning that nature itself creates visual patterns on the wood : tonalities, markings, stains. He decided, then, to aesthetically discipline these forms or natural patterns in attempt to “ touch Man’s senses, to activate his perception. ” In his early work, the dominant concern was to emphasize the idea of progression of the horizontal-undulating rhythm covering the whole bidimensional plane to suggest virtual expansion beyond the edges of the picture. Later works see progression partially substituted by or rather coupled to, the idea of symmetry, to the extent that the layers of wood form certain nuclei or blots/areas that are sometimes symmetrically opposed, almost slipping into figuration, more allusive than real, as in the Rorschach-test forms.

From 1968 onwards, Palatnik began to use duplex or triplex paperboard in white or brown. But instead of using the surface of the paper, as a designer would, he superimposed several layers to create an agglomerate, and then cut off the top. To execute the cut which he extended to the frame, which was thus significantly integrated into the work, he used a double-bladed device. The reliefs, in different depths, produced optical structures, in between which light can pass through or over, creating varying lighting in certain areas, which seem to shut or open as the viewer changes position. At the same time, these optic structures hold figurative residues, suggesting the architecture of palaces and cities, or perhaps the incessant movement of ocean waves or again dunes and caves. This is the most Baroque part of his plastic creation. Palatnik works with excess and visual ostentation, avoiding all emptiness, like 18th-century churches of Brazilian Baroque. But there is also something Byzantine and sacred in these reliefs, and this emerged more clearly when he replaced paperboard with gold-laminated metal. Another development of this series was the set of multiples in PVC executed by the vacuum-forming method.

In subsequent decades, Palatnik used three new materials in succession : in the 70s, polyester resin, in the 80s, strings on canvases, in the 90s, a plaster-and-glue compound. Using this substance, applied to canvas with a squeeze-tube doubling as paintbrush, he filled the space with vibrant marking and coloring, but the works continued to be of a progressive character. In the progressions with polyester resin, he particularly explored the transparency of this material.

In 1981, on the occasion of the first exhibition of progressions using strings on acrylic-painted canvases, Palatnik remarked that it was “ an attempt at organizing the surface in a different way to normal procedures, introducing dynamics through color. ” In other words : introducing a dynamic through the use of color and of line. In the end, in spite of the use of color, this series is no less “ painting ” than the series made from wooden layers. In fact, one of the works in the series is just composed of strings-lines covered in the same white that is used as the base for the other paintings. Using only white, Palatnik reinforces the linear structure that provides tension for the optic-kinetic rhythms of his proposal. However, unlike his progressions in wood, which tend more to horizontal expansion, like an abstract by Muybridge, in the progressions with strings, the pulse is upwards, as if the artist wished to express, at the same time, the chromatic sonority of the luminous keyboard and the ascendant impulse of the columns that grow like forests inside Gothic cathedrals. This upwards impulse is accentuated by the artist by breaking off this colored line-strips at a certain point- a strategic ending that functions as a kind of visual lever.

In this sequence of progressions, what is really meaningful is the result in terms of formal abstract structure ; progressive formal rhythm ; visual dynamics ; the play on symmetry and asymmetry ; on light and shade ; on restraint and expansion ; time as virtual motion. Palatnik does make an attempt to exploit the expressive potential of each material, however it is a law of internal development that really unifies his series of progressions and lends it coherence. Looking at this question from a different angle : the primordial meaning of form does not lie in its appearance, but in its essence. As the artist himself reminds us, form should not be confused with outer covering or outline. Palatnik, the creator of kinechromatic devices and kinetic objects, is unchanged in his work on progressions. His message remains the same.

As part of his continuing concern to avoid brush and paint, in 1988 Palatnik executed a series of ten paintings using duco on paperboard glued to wooden fiberboard. This kind of paint had already been used by Grupo Frente painters such as Ivan Serpa, since it seemed eminently suited to the demands of geometrical painting with its pure colors and also lent itself to painting that aimed to avoid being contaminated by the painter’s subjectivity. It also adapted better to manufactured supports such as chipboard. Furthermore, flat and glossy surfaces produced by spreading the paint thinly allowed artists to reproduce the original, which is always a latent possibility in this and other works by Palatnik. Moreover, the ten paintings in this series, all measuring 37.5 x 37.5 cm, were conceived as multiples and housed in a wooden bow like a portable collection or museum. While the progressions on paperboard are the artist’s most Baroque work, this series can be seen as an interregnum of concretist painting.

In 1988, at the request of Rio de Janeiro’s Tourism Board, I was commissioned with the organization of a competition to choose a project for the creation and installation of an underwater sculpture at Agra dos Reis and I asked Palatnik to take part. With his lifelong zest for tackling the most diverse challenges, he enthusiastically accepted the unusual invitation and designed a sculpture. His idea was that it should not be simply submerged in the ocean, but should afford “ floating encounters ” between divers and sculpture . Following the dynamics of the sculpture, the diver would explore it inside and outside to enjoy both a sensory and a ludic experience. The sculpture was designed to be made from shipbuilding material, therefore ecologically friendly, coexisting with underwater fauna and flora. Linking the geometrical spiral form of his sculpture to the snails and barnacles, which in time would inevitably cling to the metal surface, Palatnik named it Cracol, (fusing parts of the Portuguese words for snail and barnacle). His project was not chosen by the jury, but the prototype is shown here as an example of how genuinely inventive artists tackle challenges.

While an apprentice and student of mechanics in Israel, Palatnik kept a notebook of clear and precise drawings of machines and components. Their respective functions were described in Hebrew texts aligned next to the images. His fine drawings impressed his classmates, and particularly, his teacher, who at the end of the course asked if he could borrow the notebook and later claimed it had been mislaid. Some decades later, his brother was traveling in Israel and was able to recover this old and valuable notebook that was still in the hands of the same instructor. As an artist-cum-inventor, Palatnik designed and patented several pieces of industrial equipment, games, and a “ rotating object ” in Brazil. In 1962, he invented a game called Quadrado Perfeito (Perfect Square) , shown for the first time, in 1971 at Galeria Barcinski, Rio de Janeiro, and at the Arte Programatta e Cinetica exhibition held in Milan in 1983, curated by Léa Vergine. The game is based on moving pieces on a board similar to a chessboard, but there are no captured pieces, no checkmate, and no set starting layout. His game calls more for perception than for reasoning.

In 1975, Palatnik invented what he called a “ rotating object ” - a piece of polyester resin, measuring 12 x 2.5 x 0.8 cm, which, on account of a minor distortion on one side can reverse its direction of rotation. When launched on a horizontal flat surface, the piece begins spinning clockwise, then reverses to spin counterclockwise. The scientific basis for this invention lies in Newtonian physics.

One of the pillars of the agrarian economy in the Northeast was the babassu coconut. The nuts inside the babassu were used to make oil but the task was greatly hindered by the hardness of the shell. A heavy blow or a hammer did not always succeed in breaking the shell, or else broke it in such a way that the nuts inside were crushed and their oil spoiled. In 1952, after analyzing the problem for six months, Palatnik designed a device to break the babassu shells without spoiling the nuts. In 1968, he designed equipment for improving fishmeal processing. He also discovered a cheaper and less pollutant way of repackaging a special powder used for dental fillings at his father’s firm.

In the documentary section of this exhibition, visitors will find texts, drawings, diagrams, and blueprints showing that these activities were not just another facet of Palatnik’s personality. The notion of invention is at the center of all his creative work, be it plastic art or industrial design. On examining these texts and his handwritten notebook with its fine hand drawings, one feels that there is room here for the perspective of aesthetic pleasure (after all, what is shown here as a document is very similar to certain kinds of contemporary design) and also intellectual pleasure. In fact, conceptual artists have often taken up themes previously restricted to math, design, linguistics, biology, and other scientific and technological segments and adapted them for artworks.

However, aesthetic speculations apart, Palatnik’s creative work has always suggested the possibility of creative and productive exchange between art, science, technology and industry. In the above-mentioned interview, dated 1981, he said, “ To invent something you have to have some deviant behavior. I think companies should call on the services of artists because they have a potential for perception that can solve many problems. ” This was the idea that inspired the founders of Bauhaus (1919-1933), who based their teaching on setting up a feedback loop between art and industry : art was to check the pragmatic excesses of industry and, inversely, the latter would restrain overly romantic art. “ I continue to wager on intuition, although my work constantly calls for mathematical calculations ” adds Palatnik.

Frederico Morais


Texte extrait du catalogue d’exposition : ABRAHAM PALATNIK RETROSPECTIVE , Itau Cultural, Sao Paulo. 1999. Exposition présentée par Ricardo Ribenboim et organisée par Frederico Morais.

Nous remercions tout particulièrement Ricardo Ribenboim et Frederico Morais de nous avoir donné la permission de reproduire ce texte.

Pour lire le texte en version originale (portugais), vous pouvez vous rendre à l’adresse suivante : http://www.ici.org.br/Enciclopedia/index.cfm?fuseaction=Detalhe&CD_Verbete=5850&Expressao=Palatnik&Tipo=43&Produto=Enciclopedia



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