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Mechanics and Motion in Contemporary Art

September 03, 2005 through December 06, 2006


Curated by Matt Distel and guest curator Sandra Light

artist(s)George Antheil, Charlotte Becket, RIchard Bloes, Alexander Calder, David Ellis, Peter Fischli, Rube Goldberg, Ray Harryhausen, Fernand Léger, Claes Oldenburg, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, Jean Tinguely, Brian Tolle, David Weiss

Rotation one: September 3 - December 4, 2005: Featured artists: Rube Goldberg / Fischli + Weiss

Rotation two: December 12, 2005 - February 26, 2006: Featured artists: Fernand Legér and George Antheil / David Ellis

Rotation three: March 6 - May 28, 2006: Featured artists: Jean Tinguely / Alexander Calder / Richard Bloes

Rotation four: June 5 - September 3, 2006: Featured artist: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger / Brian Tolle

Rotation five: September 11 - November 26, 2006: Featured artists: Ray Harryhausen / Claes Oldenburg / Charlotte Becket

At the turn of the twentieth century, the art world was confronted with the introduction of new technologies. As new systems of manufacture and reproduction became commonplace, and the potential to produce infinite replicas of objects and images became available, the centrality and authenticity of the artist as the creator of unique objects came under debate. Such questions were met with both excitement and apprehension, and triggered an intense period of creative exploration.

A number of leading artists in the 1910s and 1920s chose to incorporate this modern machine aesthetic directly into their work: Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) depicted the speeding automobile overtaking a pack of running hounds and French Dadaist Francis Picabia (1879-1953) drew playful comparisons between machine components and the human body.

A significant marker in this exploration was the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely’s (1925-1991) work for the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden, Homage to New York, 1960: an over-sized mechanical contraption of interconnected wheels, cogs and pulleys, all interrelated and entirely dysfunctional, and whose inauguration at the museum resulted in its own smoke-layered self destruction.

New York critic Harold Rosenberg’s (1906-1978) reviews of Tinguely’s work posited such questions as the impossible existence of a mechanical structure as an object ‘to be seen’ in a gallery environment, whether it is in fact our memories and records of such events that constitute the piece of art, rather than the object itself, and whether such destruction was indeed a sign of the end of the mechanical age.

Today, a fascination with mechanized motion and the machine continues in the visual arts alongside the incorporation of new digital and electronic technologies. Gadget is a unique series of installations pairing contemporary investigations of mechanization with earlier works by artists from previous generations and artistic environments. Over the course of this year-long exhibition five different pairings will explore the intersection of art, science, motion and technology. Refusing to be ‘mute objects,’ these works insist upon action and, drawing upon the allure of motion and skillful engineering, invite our full attention as audience to their presence in the gallery.

This constantly evolving gallery space is complemented by a resource lounge that acts as a growing library of materials to expand on the concepts behind Gadget and provide additional information about the CAC.

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