Saturday, December 11, 2004
The Boston Phoenix

Exquisite Imperfections
by Christopher Millis

STEVE HOLLINGER takes the notion of imperfection to a place no less exquisite than does Slosburg-Ackerman, but his manner of marrying the natural and the machine-made is entirely different. Hollinger's sculpture might best be described as an effort to reinvent the meaning of the phrase "motion pictures."

When I encountered Hollinger's work for the first time in last year's DeCordova Annual, his motion pictures represented miniature re-creations of natural phenomena: the skeleton of a solar-powered bat mimicking flight (Bat); a tiny, flat marionette of a human figure going through the motions of playing a musical instrument (Fiddler); a disembodied eye turning in a manufactured socket (Sentinel). In the mere space of a year, his art has grown in depth and complexity.

The delight he's always delivered goes undiminished in the new work, but his creations now enjoy a more visceral as well as a more emotional appeal. It's as though, having passed his own tests as an inventor and an engineer, he were now free to apply those skills to more social concerns.

At first glance, Man with Flowers looks like the inside of a grandfather clock, with its large (about two feet across) burnished copper wheel that spins at the end of copper spokes radiating from a hub of similarly elegant cogs. But you quickly lose sight of the overall design, drawn in by the Chaplin-esque drama that magically takes place on a small square of glass suspended above the wheel's uppermost reach.

On the glass, we watch a hatted figure of a man approach someone we do not see with a bouquet of flowers hidden behind his back. He walks forward, genuflects, lowers his head, proffers the flowers, and then steps back to the first gesture of his courtship. Beyond the technical wizardry of the device (microchips, solar panels, every movement of the man cut stencil-like into the circumference of the wheel), the perpetual, one-sided courtship grows strangely poignant, a mechanized Orpheus forever seeking his Euryidice.

No less extraordinary is Cenotaph. You look inside its glass prism and watch a sword-wielding man (like Man with Flowers, he's a mechanized silhouette) act out movements of stylized derring-do as the background behind him grows ominous and molten.

In Supercollider, the figure of a man in one small screen runs eternally in the direction of the figure of a woman who's running toward the man in a proximate but separate screen

Almost all of Steve Hollinger's kinetic sculptures are triggered into action by sunlight, a fitting reminder that the drama of his art is a reflection of the awkward drama of our lives.

Issue Date: December 3 - 9, 2004
Copyright 2004 Phoenix Media/Communications Group

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