Artforum

Artforum

November, 1984, Page 99

Review by Thomas McEvilley

Norman Tuck
Norman Tuck showed four kinetic sculptures of considerable range and wit. In the smallest, Magnetic Attraction, 1984, a paper clip maintained in mid air at the end of a red thread by the pull of a magnet, the movement is surreptitious; one sees the activity of the magnetic field with uncanny clarity, sensing its pull, the extent of its muscle, and the transforming nature of its embrace. The simplicity of the piece relates it to Minimalism as the mental deduction involved relates it to conceptual work. At an opposite extreme of force and feeling is Chain Reaction, 1984, in which the viewer works a crank that turns a wheel to which a chain is held by magnets. As it speeds up, the heavy chain begins to exhibit a life, I becomes organic and serpentine, dancing over the inverted wire brush fixed beneath it. At high speed, when the machine seems close to exploding from the energies flowing around in it, the piece is transformed from elegant to sinister: the prowling chain becomes savagely powerful, digging viciously into its bristling wire partner.

Timeless, 1983, focuses with great precision on tiny movements. Al old-fashioned clock mechanism is driven through a five-hour cycle by the mute gravitational energy of a hanging weight; as the weight descends, too slowly for the eye to see, intricate gears tick out a capricious and fascinating dance around its silent, straight, invisible fall. Double Dutch, 1974, involves more traditional kinds of appeal. Frames of red-painted metal pipe gyrate in interlocking reciprocations which produce a sense of graceful continuous dissolution, like a forward edge of a waterfall. Here something of the smooth grandeur of natural, especially astronomical movement is played out, as opposed to the tiny perfection of movement in Timeless. Overall, Tuck’s work combines a number of types of appeal: the fascination of watching interlocking mechanical parts function toward their often unlikely outcome combines with a gracious esthetic, the two aspects fused by a conceptual concentration on different, often mysterious types of force and movement.

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