Sam Hunter

American art historian

Sam Hunter (January 5, 1923 – July 27, 2014) was an American historian of modern art. He was emeritus professor of art history at Princeton University.


The Cybernetic Sculpture of Tsai Wen-Ying, 1989Edit

Sam Hunter, The Cybernetic Sculpture of Tsai Wen-Ying, exhibition catalogue, National Museum of History, Taipei, 1989.

  • Tsai's Multi-kinetics were dynamically integrated multiple constructions, employing thirty-two kinetic units, each of which contains a configuration of multi-colored gyroscopic forms. With these elements he created an active environmental field that could, apparently, be infinitely extended. Each motorized unit was a self-sufficient entity, and when it was combined with other similar units produced a large-scale kinetic work that joined visual intensity with mechanical power. By controlling the time sequence of each unit in skillful compositions, Tsai used engineering principles to achieve aesthetic ends.
    • p. 66-67
  • He had come there dissatisfied with his work, even though his multi-kinetic work was admired and winning him professional recognition. However, at that moment, other ideas were gestating and he wanted to add what he called a "fifth dimension" to his art - that of artificial intelligence. [...] : [At the colony,] he was able to turn his thoughts inward, hoping to discover the new methods and direction that would more deeply satisfy his creative needs. It was at this point, while watching the motions and patterns of sun on leaves in the New Hampshire woods one morning, that Tsai finally achieved the revelatory breakthrough that changed his art and liberated his creative energies. As he put it, he wanted to create "natural movements in dynamic equilibrium, with intelligence," and he found his solution in an unlikely combination of natural phenomenon, the precedent of Gabo's singular (and unrepeated) kinetic sculpture, and the new resource of contemporary analog and digital technology.
    Speaking of this moment of revelation, Tsai said that he had quite deliberately turned himself into "a sort of plant": facing his chair into the sunshine in the morning, he turned his body in stages throughout the day, mulling over ways of make an "art that presented the observer with natural movements in dynamic equilibrium, and art that could convey the awe I felt while watching sunbeams shimmer through forest leaves." But a work that would "shimmer" simply did not do enough either for the artist or viewer, Tsai concluded. It must also respond in some way to the observer; it would have to work on a new feedback principle and actually engage the observer directly. In short, a cybernetic sculpture was required. To create such radically participatory works, he understood, would require that he draw on his engineering skills rather than suppress them, as he had been trying to do in his period of oil painting.
    • p. 67

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