Views of Meta - Malevich (1954) showing the work at different phases of movement
The work features white forms that float above a black background. An electric motor drives a system of wooden pulleys that are linked by a rubber belt on the back of the relief. In contrast to Alexander Calder’s motion-activated mobiles, Tinguely’s sculptures are mechanically activated; as the gears move at different speeds, the image generated will rarely repeat, and only at random intervals, heightening the element of chance.
A view of Tinguely’s studio at Impasse Ronsin, Paris, 1954. Photo by Rune Hassner
Moving to Paris in late 1952 to dedicate himself to art, Tinguely produced a number of groups of kinetic reliefs and wire sculptures. His early work shows a distinctly Dadaist attraction to chance and randomness, as well as a Futurist fascination with machines and automation.
In April 1955, Galerie Denise René presented Le Mouvement—the first overview of kinetic art. Tinguely presented four groups of work, including Meta-Malevich, alongside Marcel Duchamp’s Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics) (1925) and two mobiles by Alexander Calder, among other works.
Marcel Duchamp, Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics), 1925. Museum of Modern Art, New York
Alexander Calder, Antennae with Red Dots, c.1953. Tate Modern, London
Vladimir Tatlin, Model of the Monument 3rd International, photo dated 1919–1920. Photo: bpk Bildagentur / Art Resource, NY
Installation view, Le Mouvement, Galerie Denise René, Paris, 1955
“Tinguely’s machines are anti-machines.… The gears of his pictures have no other precision than that of arbitrariness. This art is based on the idea of the wheel, of repetition and of eternal change.”
—Pontus Hultén, former director, Moderna Museet, Stockholm