The work of César Manrique: an unknown Kinetic art genius

The work of César Manrique: an unknown Kinetic art genius
The work of César Manrique: an unknown Kinetic art genius

In 1878, Edward Muybridge projected 24 photographs he took of a horse galloping on a screen using his invention, the zoopraxiscope, a sort of early predecessor to the movie projector. The result was 2 seconds of the first motion picture in history.

Since then, many artists have been experimenting with movement, especially in the beginning of the XX century. Does the term Kinetic ring a bell? The word kinetic means relating to motion. The definition of Kinetic art, or kineticism, is a bit broader: Kinetic art is an international movement that refers to art of both real and apparent motion.



The origins of Kinetic Art

Although it is hard to say when the first Kinect art was conceived, some historians consider Impressionism canvas paintings as the earliest examples of kinetic art. They claim that these paintings extend the viewer's perspective of the artwork and incorporate multidimensional movement. Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Édouard Manet, who originally experimented with accentuating the human movement on canvas, are some of the early names connected to this kind of art. Other historians consider that Kinetic art was created between 1920 and 1970.

One thing is generally accepted: Kinetic art is built upon the foundation created by Constructivism and Dada. Marcel Duchamp’s iconic readymade sculpture Bicycle Wheel is considered the first piece of Kinetic art. “In 1913, I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn”, said Duchamp about his own work.

Kinetic art: Marcel Duchamp Bicycle Wheel Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel, 1913
Atelier sur Seine by Claude Monet, 1876 Atelier sur Seine by Claude Monet, 1876


Famous Kinetic artists

Today, Kinetic Art is a term that normally refers to three-dimensional sculptures and figures such as mobiles that move naturally or continuously and are machine operated. The moving parts are generally powered by wind, a motor or the observer.

Many famous modern artists experimented with Kinect art. Jackson Pollock, for instance, had a strong desire to animate every aspect of his paintings. He used tools that most painters would never use, such as sticks, trowels, and knives - which later led him to his famous drip technique. He focused his efforts on achieving different painting results from movement. That is how he arrived to kinetic art.

Max Bill, also known for being a graphic designer, became a complete disciple of the kinetic movement in the 1930s. He believed that kinetic art should be executed from a purely mathematical perspective. Using mathematics principles as a way to create objective movement for him.

For some art historians, Vladimir Tatlin was the first artist to ever complete a mobile sculpture. He made a series of suspended reliefs that only needed a wall or a pedestal, and it would stay forever suspended. Despite all the above named artists, for art historians Alexander Calder is one of the greatest exponent of Kinetic art to date.

Alexander Calder, Three Tentacles, Kinetic Art Three Tentacles by Alexander Calder
Number 18 Jason Pollock Number 18 by Jason Pollock


Kinetic Art today and the work of César Manrique

Let us introduce you to one of our recent discoveries, the Spanish artist César Manrique. Although he’s not as famous as his contemporary fellows Picasso and Mirò, his body of work has been just as rich. He was born in Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. His life, work, and especially his pioneering vision of how man and the environment interact is infused in many of the island's top spots.

Manrique designed many touristic attractions all over the archipelago. He fought hard to prevent Lanzarote from becoming a soulless island full of bathing tourist resorts made of cement and wall-to-wall hotels.


lava window Fundación César Manrique Famous lava window from Fundación César Manrique
César Manrique Artist César Manrique
lagomar omar sharif house Lagomar, house of actor Omar Sharif designed by César Manrique
jardin de cactus cesar manrique Jardin de Cactus by César Manrique


César Manrique and his Wind Toys

What blew us away about this creative artist is that he was really into creating mobile structures that were wind-powered. César Manrique’s curious “Wind Toys”, as he liked to call them, were inspired by Kinetic art. He would design them in his isolated studio in the small town of Haría, in the northern part of the island Lanzarote.

Manrique’s Wind Toys are solid (and most of the times colorful) structures, cast in heavy iron, made up of geometric forms as spheres, circles and pyramids. They establish an interpenetrating and complicated opposing rotational movement.

You might be asking yourself: but where did Manrique get his inspiration from? Let us take a guess: In the past, wind mills were used for agriculture purposes in Lanzarote. The landscape was filled with them, they were a distinctive character of the island. As the island began to develop, the windmills began to disappear. Manrique then created new sculptures to replace the old windmills and to, in some way, keep the tradition and history of the island’s past alive.

In 1990 Manrique places his first Kinetic art in the town of Arrieta: a spectacular and heavy iron "weather vane" painted in red that softly moves pointing the direction of the wind. In the following years, he has created many more sculptures that have been placed not only in Lanzarote, but in other Canary Islands such as Tenerife. Have a look at some of his work below:



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