Norman Tuck - Art Machines

Norman Tuck - Art Machines

City Gallery of Contemporary Art, Raleigh, N.C.

October 2 – November 14 1992

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Welcome to Norman Tuck’s world of art and physics, where poetry, motion and scientific phenomena work as one. His spinning, whirling kinetic sculptures have delighted audiences for years, while tickling the funny bones of the young and old alike. Prime examples of a cooperative synthesis of art and physical science, his “machines” perform precise and often pointless activities – illustrating in sometimes complex and always engaging ways the sort of basic mechanical processes found in a “how-to” primer for kids. Tuck sidesteps high-tech electronics in favor of the more fundamental wizardry of mechanical physics, using ready-made electrical juice only rarely, and mainly just to jumpstart the sequences of self-perpetuating actions of one of his sculptures.

Many of his works do not even need that, requiring instead a little viewer participation. Crank a handle, see what happens. There is something liberating I being allowed to ignore the usual “do not touch” rules of art, something which fits well with the playful and exploratory nature of these constructions.

It is also true that Tuck’s inventions demand little intellectual baggage, nor do you need a Ph.D. to get it. Over the years he has been refreshingly consistent in producing art which decidedly does not belong on the overloaded bandwagon of heavy social and political agendas which characterize much of the contemporary art scene. But there is not mistaking the wit of the mind that mused up these things, or the ironic appropriateness of their bemusing actions.

Machine technology has been around so long that it is generally take for granted and all but ignored; unless, of course, something goes wrong with it. Tuck the artist pulls off the blinders and redirects our attention to the sheer marvel of physical matter and its inexplicable laws of behavior. Tuck the inventor taps its energy to animate interlocking parts which operate with ungainly, precarious style or with slow-time subtlety. Some, like “Magnetic Attraction, don’t move at all. Poised instead in a state of gravity-defying suspension, a paper clip motionlessly strains to meed the red magnet on the end of a bent, serpentine wire. One of Tuck’s simpler compositions, it demonstrates a small but dynamic use of physical law in an evocatively complex work of art.

One might say therein lies the beauty of what he does. Whether Tuck’s machines mimic utilitarian purposes – like the time marking Mechanical Clock, or simply move to their own idiosyncratic rhythms, collectively they materialize in the realm where creative will meets raw substance, and stamps it with the mark of human ingenuity. Who cannot help but see the reflections of their own mental designs and aspirations in the quixotic workings of Norman Tuck’s inventive art machines.Margaret Shearin, Catalog for “Norman Tuck – Art Machines, City Gallery, Raleigh, NC, 1992

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Exhibit Checklist
Flipper, Water Wheel, Random Clockwork, Magnetic Attraction, A Simple Mechanical Escapement, L.E.D. Cascade, Tapping the Juice, Lariat Chain VIII, Mechanical Clock, Tuck Balls, Centrifugal Piece.