ART News

ARTnews

Review of Art Galaxy Exhibition, Norman Tuck

November, 1984, Pg. 175

Review by Edward Rubin

Interesting, unique and exciting. Tuck’s sculptures have more to do with science than art. Tuck is a tinkerer, perhaps even an inventor, in the old-fashioned sense of a Benjamin Franklin or a Samual Morse. He is interested in energy forces ad their effects on bodies. His love of the scientific, particularly his practical application of mechanics to the design, construction and operation of his creations makes him a constructualist. 

Tuck’s machines, with their movable parts, spring from ideas that either pop into his head or are culled from the many illustrated “how-to” books that he reads. His craftsmanlike methods – he plans, builds, replans and rebuilds, continually making adjustments until his machine functions – give his work a fresh and almost experimental quality.

Stylishly uncluttered, the show had four pieces, each set into different kinds of motion by different means. The three largest pieces, each approximately the size of a car, have been designed to allow the viewer to stroll around them and experience them in the round. These as first complicated-seeming machines prove surprisingly accessible in meaning as well as being visually and sensually pleasing. For Tuck, art and science are not antagonists: they unite in his art.

Timeless (1983), a galvanized-steel construction, uses a 19th-century weight-driven clockwork escapement similar to the mechanism that runs London’s Big Ben. Double Dutch (1974), a painted red metal-and-plastic rectangular pipe construction, looks like a piece of farming equipment. When plugged in, its rotating rectangles go round and round, appearing to throw themselves over an invisible brink in a perfectly modulated, dense, continuously arching mass. A third piece, Chain Reaction (1984), worked by the human hand, examines accelerated motion. When the participant turns the wheel, the movement is translated into a series of events that appear to animate the chain. 

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In the simplest piece in the show, Magnetic Attraction (1984), Tuck has cleverly attached a magnet to a clothes hanger and a paper clip to a piece of string. The unseen forces of the magnetic field hold the clip suspended in midair. At best, these “experiments,” with their sense of wonder and curiosity, remind us that if art and science share anything, it is discovery and blind faith that sometimes works and sometimes can be demonstrated in the simplest and most direct terms.