Schoeffer, Nicolas

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SCHOEFFER, NICOLAS (1912–1992), sculptor and painter. Schoeffer was born in Kalosca, Hungary, and after studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest, he continued at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. From 1935 he lived permanently in Paris. He was one of the leading contemporary exponents of kinetic art. While his origins lie in sculpture, his earliest important influence was the abstract painting of Mondrian. Based on the theory of Cubism, Mondrian's work narrowed artistic expression and experience to the interplay of squares and right angles and the intensity of a few primary colors. Schoeffer concentrated entirely on the right angle, from which he developed a theory of "Spatiodynamism." In a lecture at the Sorbonne in 1954, he defined this theory as "the constructive and dynamic integration of space in a plastic work." In practice, the art objects based on this theory are metal constructions whose composition creates or suggests illusory movement. In due course Schoeffer incorporated transparent materials in his work, so that the interplay with solid metals, which in turn dissected space rather than encasing or occupying it, resulted in a greater lightness and diversity of rhythms. One of his most successful essays is the 52-meter-tall "luminodynamic" tower in Bouverie Park, Liège, which incorporates rectangular and highly polished rotating elements to reflect light as well as sound. This tower relates to further theories of "Luminodynamism" and "Chronodynamism"; the first involves polished reflective surfaces and the second synchronized sound effects. Schoeffer made a number of public tower-sculptures to illustrate these theories. Audiovisual experiments occupied him in later years, in particular the "Musiscope," whereby he "played" a keyboard which both makes sounds and projects color formations on a screen. He also produced a series of brilliant mobile sculptures, usually in transparent plastics, which rotate electrically and reflect light.

[Charles Samuel Spencer]