MALINA, Frank Joseph (1912-1981)

Kinetic painting, Lumidyne system – metal, glass, mechanical system with electrical motor and fluorescent tube lighting.
100 x 200 x 15 cm
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin United States
© Photo: UNESCO
Malina family

The work "Ladders to the Stars III" by Frank Joseph Malina (1912-1981), dating from 1965, is one of the “Lumidyne system” paintings, in which he introduced electrical movement as of 1958.


Frank Joseph Malina held a PhD in aeronautics and was a pioneer both in the field of Art as well as the conquest of space. He participated in the launch of the first American high-altitude rocket. He joined UNESCO in 1947, initially as a consultant in the Department of Natural Sciences and later as director of the Division of Scientific Research.

He resigned from UNESCO in 1953, at which point he began his artistic research, however without abandoning science, which he fully integrated in his works. That same year, he exhibited his creations for the first time in the Parisian art gallery Henri Tronche. These early works are composed of stretched thread and rope fixed upon an outer frame, behind which one can glimpse a colored background. His research brought Malina to replace rope by metal wire to which he could give fixed shapes. He later use wire mesh which he superimposed upon a colored background, hence introducing multidimensionality into his works.

Malina first included electrical light in his artistic creations in 1954, with "Illuminated wire mesh moiré". With the help of fairy lights, he created the concept of electro-painting and became one of the pioneers in the field of kinetic art.

In 1958, he developed and registered a new system called Lumidyne, with the assistance of Jean Villmer, a student in electronics. Real movement is introduced into this system thanks to electromechanical force. Works created with this technique are composed of four elements, namely a wooden back used as support for the motor and light bulbs, a colored, mobile plexiglass element attached to the motor (the rotor), a fixed plexiglass element (the strator) and a screen (the diffusor).

He improved his creation by reducing the number of components to three. The Reflectodyne, which brings together the strator and a diffusor into one single piece, also includes a plexiglass screen upon which lights are reflected through mirrors and metal. In 1964, he created the Polaridyne system whereby he allowed for the light polarization through birefringent materials. At that point, the division of light beams was therefore included in these creations.

In the 1960s, Malina incorporated sound into his research, presenting his first audio-kinetic work in 1965. He named his creations “Kusic” which, thanks to the effect of photocells, allowed for images to create sound.

Frank Joseph Malina passed away on November 9, 1981 at his home in Boulogne-Billancourt (France). His work is recognized internationally and is exhibited in several American and European museums, such as the Centre National d'Art Contemporain (Paris), the Smithsonian Institution (Washington DC, USA), the National Gallery (Prague, Czech Republic), the Palace of Arts and Science (San Francisco, USA), among many other public and private collections.

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