Greenpoint, October, 2015

Friday, December 16, 2011

That Tinguely Feeling

You can see the most gripping French film in New York on that iPad mounted on the wall of the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue. It's a video of Jean Tinguely's construction, Radio No. 1, in action. That's the piece itself on a pedestal, sadly immobile. In the video, wheels turn, parts spin or pivot, and the whole thing moves haltingly forward then back on tiny rubber tires. And it emits radio sounds and static that cut in and out as the thing jolts along. Something like Dr. Seuss crossed with Rags, the mechanical dog from Woody Allen's  Sleeper.

It's part of the Private Collection of Robert Rauschenberg show that takes up three full floors of the gallery. Bob really dug Jean Tinguely. In addition to Radio No. 1, there are a number of drawings for other constructions, including one signed "pour Bob" of the infamous Homage to New York. A contraption on a far grander scale that Tinguely exhibited at MOMA in 1960, it was intended to self-destruct, but failed. An allegory for New York or just a French farce?

I first saw Tinguely's work when I was a student in London in 1982--yikes, there was less time between when these pieces were made and me then than there is between me then and me now! I've always been drawn to them. Come to find out Tinguely and I share an affinity for "the most beautiful artwork" (probably sounds better in French), the automobile. 

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The Museum Tinguely in Basel recently had an exhibit called Fetisch Auto: I Drive Therefore I Am. Check out the website for some great takes on this universal theme. Tinguely loved Formula 1 and made several pieces with parts from F1 cars. The one above brings together a Lotus racecar (once driven by world champion Jim Clark!) with Eva Aeppli's "Five Widows" as a memorial to to the "often-fatal circus that is the Formula 1." 

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