Abraham Palatnik
The artist Abraham Palatnik in front of one of his works. Photo: Disclosure.

Died this Saturday (May 9, 2020), at the age of 92, the artist Abraham Palatnik, a victim of Covid-19. He was admitted on April 29 in serious condition, after testing positive for the new coronavirus. According to people close to him, he suffered from lung disease and had contracted pneumonia six months ago. One of the pioneers of kinetic art in Brazil, Palatinik was consecrated by the creation of works marked by the fusion between movement, time and light. In 2017, the arte!brasileiros published text by Vivian Mocellin about the exhibition The Reinvention of Painting, a major exhibition by the artist that toured institutions such as CCBB Rio and MAM-SP. Read below:


One of the pioneers of kinetic art in the country, Abraham Palatnik wins an exhibition at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro (CCBB Rio). The show brings together 85 works by the artist, born in Natal in 1928, to Russian parents, raised in Tel Aviv, then Palestine, and since 1947 – therefore 70 years ago – residing in Rio.

There are paintings, kinechromatic devices, kinetic and playful objects, furniture and project drawings, coming from private and institutional collections in the country and, mainly, from the artist's own collection. The exhibition, curated by Pieter Tjabbes and Felipe Scovino, occupies the entire second floor of the CCBB.

“The history of world art considers Palatnik a pioneer of painting and sculpture in motion”, highlights Scovino. Both he and Tjabbes point to “the precise dialogue between technology and intuition” as a highly significant fact of the place that Palatnik occupies in the art scene. “In addition, experimentalism and organicity fly over his trajectory. Two apparently ambiguous data that find a perfect symbiosis”, they say.

Also part of the exhibition are paintings of psychiatric patients at the Engenho de Dentro hospital – Emydgio de Barros (1895-1986) and Raphael Domingues (1912-1979) –, which influenced a change in the artist's career path. He met the two of them in 1948, when he visited the Museum of Images of the Unconscious, created in the asylum by the psychiatrist Nise da Silveira.

Detail of work by Abraham Palatnik. Photo: Agência Brasil

After his visits to the hospital, Palatnik abandoned paints and brushes and never returned to figurative painting. “They hadn't learned anything at school, they didn't attend workshops, and suddenly, such precious images appear. Where did that inner strength come from? I'm not going to paint anymore because my painting was worthless, it was crap”, says Palatnik about the decision he made at the time.

The rescue for artistic life came from a meeting with the critic Mário Pedrosa and from reading a book recommended by him, on Gestalt, by Norbert Wiener. In 1949, he began to research light and movement until he created/manufactured the “cinechromatic apparatus” – box with lamps whose displacement was driven by a motor, creating images of lights and colors in movement.

It was with the kinechromatic Blue and purple on your first move that Palatnik participated in the 1st São Paulo International Biennial, in 1951, winning an honorable mention from the international jury. Still in the 50s, he developed research in abstract-geometric painting and also in furniture design.

In 1964, the artist creates the “kinetic objects”, constructed by metal rods or wires that have wooden discs of various colors at the ends and are moved by a motor. In the same year, he participated in the Venice Biennale, which stimulated his career on the international circuit.

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