In Memoriam: Kinetic Artist Antonio Asis

By Robert Murphy

Antonio Asis, a pioneering Argentine postwar abstract artist known for his vibrant paintings and interactive kinetic art, died in Paris on March 30 after an illness. He was 87. Asis, born in 1932 in Buenos Aires, was a key member of the South American expatriate creative community who moved to Paris in the 1950s and to explore color and geometry to incite movement and vibration in art. 

He arrived in the French capital in 1956, after studies at the Escuela National de Belles Artes, where he quickly adopted a view inspired by Bauhaus ideas and concrete and constructivist art. 

Artists Julio Le Parc, Hugo Demarco and Mariano Carrera were among his Buenos Aires classmates. They all eventually moved to Paris, which, thanks to the Galerie Denise René and the artist Victor Vasarely, had become a beacon for the new geometry sweeping through art. 

Asis quickly befriended the likes of Yaacov Agam, Nicolas Schöffer, Narcisso Debourg, Jean Tinguely and Jesus-Rafael Soto, who, at the time, made more money from playing guitar in Parisian cafés than from art. The bohemian atmosphere of risk and discovery appealed to Asis. 

He experimented with photograms and introduced movement into his work by attaching spirals and small balls on springs to paintings with which the viewer was incited to interact. 

Asis also became known for his grill paintings with a metallic grill placed several inches in front of a panel painted with a geometric motif. When the viewer moved in front of the work it created a spinning moiré effect. 

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Asis continued to investigate systematic grids of color and how movement seduced the eye. In 1971, he co-founded Position, a group of Argentine geometrical artists living in Paris that included Carlos Agüero, Armando Durante and Hugo Demarco. 

In recent years, interest in Asis’s work has surged, thanks to a re-evaluation of the importance of his early geometric and kinetic explorations. His work is found in many museums, including the Pompidou Centre in Paris, The Museum Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Asis is survived by his wife, Lydwine.

Obituary is courtesy of Robert and Camille Murphy, RCM Galerie.