Exploring Abstract Expressionism through mechanize motion and challenging the concept of a static experience of viewing art, the Swiss sculptor and experimental artist, Jean Tinguely, is best-known for his sculptural mechanics or kinetic art, in Dada tradition, satirizing the improvements of the industrial revolution and modern reliance on technology.
A prominent member of Europe's Nouveau Réalisme movement, Tinguely was born on May 22, 1925, in Fribourg. After going to school in Basel, he began an apprenticeship as a shop-window decorator in a departmental store in 1940. From 1941 to 1945, Tinguely studied painting and sculpture at the Basel School of Fine Arts.
In 1944, Tinguely began experimenting with movement in space with his machine-like sculptures by equipping them with electric motors and making them spin around at high speed. Growing dissatisfied with the staid artistic climate of Basel, he moved to Paris in 1953 and began to construct his first truly sophisticated kinetic sculptures, which he termed métaméchaniques, or metamechanicals.
In the mid and late 1950s, Tinguely created a series of sculptures entitled “Machines à peindre” (Painting Machines), these robot-like machines continuously painted the pictures of abstract patterns to the accompaniment of self-produced sounds and noxious odor. In 1959, Tinguely set up an 8-foot-long “Painting Machine”, at the first Paris Biennale and associated himself with the group of “ZERO”.
In 1960, Tinguely created a sensation with his first large self-destroying sculpture, the 27-foot-high metamatic entitled “Homage to New York”, whose public suicide demonstrated at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This innovation set the stage for other self-destructing works like “Study for an End of the World” (1962) “La Vittoria” (1970). In the 1960s and ‘70s, Tinguely went on to create less aggressive and more playful kinetic constructions that combined aspects of the machine with those of found objects or junk.
With his second wife, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Tinguely installed the climbable female sculpture “Hon” at the Modern Musset, Stockholm in 1966. One year later he was present at the World Exhibition in Montreal. In 1968 his machines were shown again in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in the exhibition “Dada, Surrealism and their Heritage “.
Tinguely continued to work even in the old age. In 1980-81, he created the fountain “La Fontaine Stravinsky” in Paris. Tinguely was an innovator in his appreciation of beauty inherent in machines and junk and in his use of spectator participation; in many of the events he engineered, spectators could partially control or determine the movements of his machine.
After conquering the world with his extraordinary work, Tinguely died on August 20, 1991, in Bern.