Sculptors illuminate the paradox of technology in nature

The nuts and bolts of the industrial world joined hands with the branches and leaves of the organic world in “A Community of Artists,” an exhibit featuring works from members of The Johnson Atelier.

All of the pieces speak for themselves, but some simply speak louder than others. Jonathan E. Auger’s two pieces definitely have a distinct voice. “Wait and Watch” and “Marathon” are mechanical sculptures plugged into timers. The sculptures are intriguing when they are still, but once their wheels and gears start churning – usually, of course, when the viewers’ backs are turned – the pieces come to life. Intentional or not, the racket that these machines create is art in itself.

Squeaks emanate from “Wait and Watch” as the metal wheel slowly trudges though the circular journey of its ceaseless life. Accompanying the squeak is a thud from a sandbag which is dropped in conjunction with the turns of the wheel.

“Marathon” lacks the thud, but has plenty of squeak. Remember the wretched sound of the Wicked Witch’s bicycle in “The Wizard of Oz?” Multiply that by about five. This long skeletal sculpture resembles the basic gears and pedals on a bike or paddle boat. In the gallery program, Auger said, “my work attempts to observe time, space and motion through the use of my own body as a matrix.” In this piece, he incorporates different sections of leg forms which reaffirm the idea of someone pumping the pedals.

Helena Lukasova uses her artwork as an “attempt to describe the uniqueness of life, its secrets, the possibility of common understanding, of loneliness and desired fulfillment.”

“Series of Little Gifts, 1999 Ladder” is one of Lukasova’s pieces in the exhibit. It has a disturbing quality to it. A small chain is composed of chicken bones linked together with wire and what looks like hot glue. The “uniqueness of life” described in this piece resembles a strand of DNA. This DNA signifies a combination of the industrial and natural worlds instead of genetics.

It is amazing that something as cold, hard and unfriendly as metal can become something graceful, moving and organic. E. Gyuri Hollosy’s “Frivolity” and “Pitches and Entrances” achieve just that. The leafy-shaped sheets of metal laid one on top of another in the forms of beautiful, musical figures is entrancing.

Hollosy said that “the challenge is not only to create two engaged bodies, but figures whose very engagement – physical and emotional – changes when the sculpture is turned from one three-point base to another and another and achieving a form that is never at rest.”

Something even more amazing, which speaks louder than the noisy machines by Auger, is Patrick McClanahan’s “Greatest Limitation” and “Greatest Limitation #11.” Once the viewer gets past the Hellraiser-ish appearance of these two cubic busts, the meaning becomes blindingly apparent.

McClanahan said, “I should have named these ‘All the Shit in My Head.'” Stress, confusion and all of the daily trials and tribulations we face day in and day out are encapsulated in this little man caged inside the heads of these sculptures. Even though the meaning is blindingly apparent, it is hard to look away.

The pieces in this phenomenal exhibit embrace many facets of art through sculpture – invention, movement, sound, manipulation of stubborn materials and the ability to captivate audiences of all kinds.