Monday, September 3, 2012

Moving Sculptures

Sounds of bells awake the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on a Saturday morning. Lin Emery's sculptures are on.  The automatons come alive with their servo-motors humming. The artist is well-known for her kinetic sculptures powered by water, magnets or wind.
"Breaking News", 2002, a large installation, fills a whole room. Protesters on the left, a tense group driven forward with fighting energy, on the march, are facing soldiers, straight and ready, in a tight formation on the right. They stand on each side of a body of water represented by a mirror surrounded by a red lining, symbol for blood. In the background hands are turning right, left, right, left, below white banners. Under the bridge of hands the ground is made of  Penrose tiles decorated with words in different languages. Littering the floor, they are meaningless and powerless. The subject of the work is dark and bloody and throws off the viewer. One expects automatons to be fun , a music box, a bird for a clock, not to show a battlefield or allegories to represent the Media and its inefficiencies. The shadows on the wall multiply the participants and animate the whole space.

Next room, "Acolytes", 1990-1992, feels incongruous. 
The four priests are part of a larger installation called "Sanctum"  and used to stand outside the temple, guardians of a sacred ceremony. Undisturbed, they rise and fall, up and down,  kneel, stand, kneel, stand, respectable, projecting their halos on the walls, but part of the work and story is missing.

A kinetic wall installation (2005) creates shapes and the sculpture redesigns itself  with a repetitive shape and rhythm. It is the closest  work to another kinetic sculptor's concept, George Rickey.
Across, the "Flower Drum", 1985, is producing the bell-like sound which fills the museum. The flower opens and closes, symbol of the cycle of life.
The exhibition confirms that, for me, Lin Emery's most powerful message is contained in her giant outdoor sculptures, " borrowing the forces of nature".

photographs by the author
"Breaking News", 2002
"Acolytes", 1990-92
"Flower Drum". 1985

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