Sculptors push the envelope so viewers can too

July 25, 1996|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

You're sternly warned not to touch the art in most exhibits, but what about a show where the art will only "perform" for you if you press a button or turn a crank?

That's the hands-on situation at Galerie Francoise, where sculptors Arthur Ganson and Wayne Koscinski have built junk constructions that need your guiding hand to set them in motion. Working separately, they have in common a sense of mechanically convoluted silliness. And, in dedicating their exhibit the late Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, they acknowledge that the art of the machine age can be fun rather than threatening.

Koscinski's playful assemblages often rely on the playground as much as the junkyard for material support. A tricycle serves as the base for "Nuisance." From that base rises a festive orange metal arc serving as the support for such disparate suspended objects as a plastic carrot, a film reel, feathers, belt buckles and a wheel. Turning a crank prompts the tricycle to turn in circles, which in turn soon results in the sounding of a metal bell.

Although such sculptural constructions unfortunately don't resonate in more cerebral ways, taken on their own mechanical terms they're gratifyingly complex and just plain goofy. Koscinski also pleases by alternating between sculptures that need to be set in motion to completely satisfy an audience and other sculptures that can simply stand still.

At the complex end of his silly spectrum are pieces such as "This Is Your Life" and "Daydream," in which the touch of your hand can initiate a chain reaction of bicycle wheels and smaller wheels revolving. At the more placid end of the spectrum, his large wire-frame model of a "Plane" can be wheeled around a bit on the gallery floor, but works even better when simply contemplated as a schematic wire rendering of a plane's form.

Perhaps the most promising sculpture as far as where Koscinski may go with all this whimsy is his wall-hung "Window Piece." Look at the black brush strokes marking the otherwise white gallery wall behind this piece and you suspect that setting its metal wheels and spear-like spokes in motion could result in further mark making. Press a button, set the gizmo in motion, and sure enough a paintbrush glides along the wall for a few inches. It's not actually painting, but it seems to be.

An artist-made machine itself making art is a nifty notion that Koscinski should crank up more often. Although Arthur Ganson is represented by far fewer pieces than Koscinski in this rather imbalanced two-artist exhibit, he shares that interest in creating creative machines.

Also, a video of Ganson's various art projects helps fill us in on his career. Ganson's wheeled cart "Faster" is the only hands-off sculpture in the present show, but his video reveals that pushing the cart very fast results in a pencil actually writing the work's title on a small board mounted at the front of the cart.

Ganson likes to toy with the Tinguely-associated idea of the self-destructing machine. In Ganson's case, his "Machine with Egg Shells" calls upon the viewer to turn a crank and cause already broken egg shells mounted atop poles to undergo further collisions with each other. When they're all cracked up, the artist has provided replacement egg shells to ensure continuous destruction through the length of the show's run.

If you can break away from the sculptural games being played by these two artists indoors at Galerie Francoise, the gallery also has mounted a longer-running outdoor summer sculpture exhibit. That this group show runs through Nov. 15 will qualify it for Indian summer status by the time it comes down. Exhibiting sculpturally stationary but otherwise diverse work are Brent Crothers, Judy Heimann, Greg Moring, Sam Christian Holmes, William Duffy, John Ferguson, Jamie Perkins and James McFarland.

Play along

What: Arthur Ganson and Wayne Koscinski

Where: Galerie Francoise, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa roads

L When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Through Sept. 3

Call: (410) 337-2787

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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