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Nicolas Schöffer unpacking Cysp I for Art Today: Kinetic & Optic at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in February 1965. Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York.

Caught on Camera: Nicolas Schöffer Installing Works for Art Today: Kinetic & Optic​​​​​​​

October 11, 2018

The work of sculptor Nicolas Schöffer (French, born Hungary, 1912–1992) was shown for the first time in America as part of Art Today: Kinetic & Optic, a special exhibition assembled as part of The Buffalo Festival of the Arts Today in 1965.

The exhibition was composed of 84 kinetic and optic sculptures and paintings by 48 artists, and marked the first time that a U.S. art museum had exhibited the two movements simultaneously.

Schöffer was on hand from Paris to install and maintain his works, which were primarily electrically programmed kinetic sculptures. Among these was Cysp I (pictured abpve), a groundbreaking construction with an electronic “brain” that emits light and sound, moves at various speeds, and reacts to color and heat, as well as Spatiodynamique 22, 1954 (pictured below), which is now in the Albright-Knox's collection. 

Nicolas Schöffer installing his work Spatiodynamique 22, 1954, for Art Today: Kinetic & Optic at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in February 1965. Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York.

Installation view of works by Nicolas Schöffer in Art Today: Kinetic & Optic (February 27, 1965–April 11, 1965). Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York.

In the 1960s, Schöffer began to take his work in a direction he referred to as luminodynamism, a shift that resulted in his series of “Lux” sculptures. Lux 9, 1964—which is currently on view in Giant Steps: Artists and the 1960s (through January 6, 2019)—revolves on a motorized base, generating a painterly form of kinetic art in its unfolding of shadow and reflected light.

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