Shearin, Margaret. "Electricity From Lemons." Triad Style Magazine.
Winston-Salem, N.C. 13 Nov. 1991. Page 10.
VISUAL ARTS by Margaret Shearin
Electricity from Lemons: Review of “Mindless Mechanisms: The Sculpture of Norman Tuck.”
Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts, Winston-Salem, NC. Through March 8, 1991
Art and science fuse in SECCA’s latest retrospective exhibition, which features nearly 20 years worth of unlikely inventions by Winston-Salem artist Norman Tuck. Lemons, magnets, bicycle wheels and even a bowling ball are all part of this entertaining collection of spinning, rotating and time-keeping gismos.
Although the mechanics themselves aren’t all that clear to the non-mechanical minded (notwithstanding the inclusion of a few diagrams), viewers can relax. You don’t have to know how it works to enjoy it. “Play… enjoy yourself” seems to be Tuck’s philosophy towards his work and his audience. In an interview appearing in the exhibition brochure, Tuck stresses that hei is “about as serious as a five year old child building sand monuments with his toy trucks in the backyard. His work is important to him and he is intense in his concentration, yet he is still “playing’.”
While the quality of playfulness is without a doubt present, it no way sabotages the sophistication of this body of work. A fluent knowledge of physics to work such as “Public Clock,” a tall gravity-powered clock made from bicycle parts and “I’ll Tell You How the Sun Rose,” a heat, wind and time construction which rises and falls in a 24 hour cycle and is named for the poetry of Emily Dickenson.
While the marking of time as a meaningful function is not uncommon in Tuck’s art, most of his kinetic sculptures perform functionally senseless activity. As an example, a piece titled “Chain Reaction” is made to move by turning a hand crank. The crank causes a long chain to orbit in an uneven, yet sinuous arc which glitters and clatters around the wheel. It is functionally meaningless but aesthetically mesmerizing. Still other machines are studies in interlocking rotations, sound and wave phenomena or the hows and whys of pulling electricity from lemons.
Although the forms and their movements vary from piece to piece, the entirely whimsical approach to mechanical physics is consistent within the artist’s body of work, and even in the face of a fickle art world, Tuck has persisted in his favored genre. So even though the concept of kinetics isn’t new, it isn’t passé either, as Norman Tuck shows us by spinning his wheels.
Margaret Shearin, Triad Style, Nov. 13, 1991, Page 10