Eclectic Affinities 

Three artists explore art, science, and philosophy.

Art has become increasingly abstract and intellectual in the past century, culminating in conceptual art's wall text, diagrams, and photos in the '70s. Although most artists today eschew such visual puritanism, they have clung to the freedom to choose from all fields of human activity, including the obscure or esoteric, for inspiration and methodology. Swarm Gallery is showing such eclectic art. Erik Friedman and Reuben Margolin in Final Dream Fringe present machines and other artifacts as human symbols or surrogates; Gareth Spor in his Star Gate prints reconfigures the "ultimate trip" sequence of Stanley Kubrick's 2001 to posit questions about space and time.

Friedman's drawings on Duralene drafting film juxtapose dissociated urban imagery. Mechanical objects or artifacts — a Ferris wheel, an ornate chandelier, a carved Baroque angel, pieces of molding or statuary that look like Roy Lichtenstein paint-by-number brushstrokes — are precisely rendered in black ink over white gouache; they float over grayed-out, less defined siblings, or over telephone wires and poles rendered in blue silhouette on a second, recessed sheet of film. The effect is of objects seen through and reflected on windshields or windows, or of cinematic montage: charged objects loom in the protagonist's or viewer's mind's eye while the urban landscape whirls by (or the older visions fade).

Margolin exhibits a pair of eccentric, intricately crafted machines utilizing basic technology — string, off-center cams, and motors — to attain humorous and lyrical ends. "Pentagonal" initially has an ecclesiastical or ritualistic look. A conical top structure houses a motor that rotates an arm connected via cams to dozens of strings; these suspend silver cylinders suggestive of candles. It appears to be a gigantic wind chime, or candelabra, but when the cylinders gently pump up and down, they transform into pistons — Duchampian sex machine combined with electric prayer wheel. "Yellow Wiggle" is a larger piece outfitted with two rotary motors that elaborately power a series of rods like piano hammers that, ingeniously and hilariously, do the Wave.

Spor's 2001-based digital prints are described as inverting or rotating space (usually considered horizontal) and time (usually vertical) to generate "an unnatural or alien perspective" that questions the limitations of the human perceptual apparatus. While such thorny scientific-philosophical concepts may make even evolved 2008 Star Children feel like the everted pig-dog of Galaxy Quest, or the dying, singing HAL, the vertical images, which reverse normal widescreen aspect ratios, are quite beautiful core samples from 1969; you may recognize the views. Final Dream Fringe and Stargate run through December 21 at Swarm Gallery (580 Second St., Oakland).


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