The works in a Carnegie museum show perform for the audience.
By JOSEF WOODARD, Special to The Times
Enter the strange, sensory circus that is Andy Schuessler's new series of 20 artworks at your own risk. Stepping into the upstairs gallery of the Carnegie Art Museum triggers madcap activity from Schuessler's new kinetic "found object" sculptures.
Sounds ping and clatter, machinery lurches into action and lights flash in syncopated rhythms. There is probably no physical danger in taking in this work, as crazy as its machinery is, but one's natural sober detachment in an art space is seriously threatened.
Operative words: quirky, absurd, oddly graceful
and, high on the list, physical and mechanical. There is nothing virtual
about it. Yet, for all of its ample fun factor--this is a show genuinely
suitable and recommendable for the whole family--Schuessler's show, "Sounding
Boards," also broaches some serious issues.
This art elicits questions about the shift
of values in the post-machine age, the waning of real-world palpability
in the cyber age and the importance of concrete action and artifact in
Schuessler is clearly a tinkerer with an obvious
love of crackpot inventions, for art's sake. This much we know from his
last exhibit at the Carnegie. The new show, though, is more focused, at
least in terms of an extant theme giving rise to variations.
All the works, a medium described by the artist
as "electro-mech assemblage," begin with ironing boards, which serve as
both an armature upon which to build and an expressive element in themselves.
Gadgets, motors, lights, pulleys and other parts are attached, and each
piece performs a specific function or stunt, sometimes self-triggering
and sometimes made to act by our intervention, via buttons, switches and
Taken at face value, these clever constructions can be appreciated as evidence of the artist's vaguely dadaistic gizmo savvy. But they also invite further metaphorical interpretations. In "Clock of Heaven/Hammer of God," a weight is raised and lowered, in a banging motion, by a fishing pole arm, a repetitive action at once funny and a touch ominous.
"Night Light," with its absurd, fondling metal
part, is innocent enough, although it could also be read as sexual. In
"Aught Aught," a slow-motion music box part tinkles and a spring with a
metal head bangs on a silver serving tray. "It's a Wiggly, Wiggly World"
is activated with a foot switch, which makes a wooden object on a spring
wobble, as if subjected to shock therapy. Clap twice in front of "Plaundo"
and a bell rings, a call-and-response equation.
"Mobius" is all about the twisted shape of
a chain as it spins slowly in an oblong circle. Most of the actions are
deceptively calm and understated. Things get nudged about or pushed into
sound-making results, but nothing dramatic or overtly "meaningful" occurs.
The medium, and its cause-and-effect motions,
are very much the message. A cavalcade of funky, goofball art machines,
it's a must-see show, proving that art can move, in more ways than one.
Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times