Kinetic art explores how things look when they move and refers mostly to sculptured works, made up of parts designed to be set in motion by an internal mechanism or an external stimulus, such as light or air. The movement is not virtual or illusory, but a real movement that might be created by a motor, water, wind or even a button pushed by the viewer. Over time, kinetic art developed in response to an increasingly technological culture.
The Kinetic art form was pioneered by Marcel Duchamp, Naum Gabo, and Alexander Calder. Among the earliest attempts to incorporate movement in a plastic artwork were Moholy-Nagy's Space-Light Modulator, a sculpture producing moving shadows made at the Bauhaus between 1922 and 1930, certain Constructivists works, Marcel Duchamp's Rotary Glass Plate and Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics), and Alexander Calder's motorized sculptures from 1930s.
The expression Kinetic Art was used from the mid-1950s onward. It referred to an international trend followed by artists such as Soto, Takis, Agam and Schoffer. Some Kinetic artists also worked in the field of Op Art. Their works were influenced by a modernist aesthetic and could be made with contemporary materials (e.g., aluminum, plastic, neon). Most kinetic works were moving geometric compositions. In Italy artists belonging to Gruppo N, founded in Padua in 1959 (including Biasi, Costa and Massironi, among others), carried out experiments with light, projections and reflections associated with movement.
The members of the French group GRAV, which included Le Parc, Morellet and Sobrino and was established in 1960's in Paris, created optical and kinetic environments that disturbed and interfered with meanings and relations to space.
The term kineticism broadened the concept of Kinetic Art to all artistic works involving movement, without any reference to a specific aesthetics. It applies to all those artists today who work with any kind of movement, rather than only geometric art.