Art in Review; Richard Bloes ‘The Sun Rises in the Evening’
By KEN JOHNSON
Published: June 10, 2005
530 West 25th Street, Chelsea
Through June 24The enchanting sculpture by Richard Bloes in the small rear gallery at Feature looks like something constructed by a furniture maker who, in a whimsical mood, decided to try something creative with scraps found around the shop. Attached to and hanging by strings and cables from a large, freestanding wooden framework are all kinds of wooden elements: dowels, turnings, squiggly and zigzag shapes, a partially assembled chair, dollhouse-scale chair parts and a pendulum driven by an electric clock motor. The colors of the Swedish flag and Ikea, yellow and blue, are painted here and there.At first the clunky, amateurish look is off-putting, but then you begin to discern an intricacy and precision that give it an intriguing but enigmatic sense of purpose. A silent video showing close views with many parts swinging and spinning creates a mysterious Cubist expressionism, and the jump from the actual structure to the virtual semi-abstraction adds to the magic.To get to Mr. Bloes’s installation, you must first pass through an exceptionally diverting 23-person exhibition , titled ”The Sun Rises in the Evening,” in the main gallery. The paintings, sculptures and drawings on view almost defy generalization, ranging as they do from Richard Rezac’s sleek, faux-Modernist abstract sculpture to Davor Vrankic’s weird magic realist pencil drawings to B. Wurtz’s seemingly artless tower of plywood blocks and plastic bags. But there is something that almost everything shares with Mr. Bloes’s work: a winning combination of exacting craftsmanship and offbeat imagination. KEN JOHNSON
Richard Bloes’s videotapes and video installations are conceptualized as low-tech, hand-made mechanical approximations (and deconstructions) of the ideas and functions of technology and science. His earliest works explored the possibilities of designing simple mechanical structures, made of wood and paint, which would mimic visual effects specific to the electronic video medium: a painted panel sliding across the screen would approximate the electronic “wipe”; a structure painted in different colors would spin rapidly to suggest the distortions of colorized and electronically altered video images. These “mechanical” effects are then recorded on video, while the structure itself, which resembles a piece of large handcrafted, wooden machinery, is preserved as a kind of sculpture, whose form develops out of its function, and whose function is demonstrated by the accompanying videotape. Recent works have become increasingly decorative and often incorporate objects – such as carpentry tools, tooled pieces of wood, and portions of prefabricated kits – which make reference to the process of their own construction through an increasingly elaborated artisanship.
In recent years Bloes has expanded this basic approach into a full-fledged artistic idiom, which he has used to explore various scientific and technological phenomena in a series of different works. It is useful to think of Bloes’s video installations as homegrown experiments designed to examine the relationships between science and aesthetics. Sophisticated concepts like the study of astronomy (Night Space, 1999) or the concept of time (Time Spans, 1990) are “duplicated” or reworked through a “primitive” methodology of hand-made mechanical construction and approximation. In the process, these “experiments” become transformed into mysteriously abstract videotapes and beautifully crafted sculptural objects, which seem to have blossomed mysteriously out of the rather abstract concepts they began with.
Bloes’s installations are like aesthetic bridges spanning the imaginary gap between the everyday reality of the artist’s life and the abstractions of physics and the other sciences. These works propose solutions to scientific questions, and suggest that, from the perspective of the artist/artisan, craftsmanship and art are tools equal to those of scientific sophistication and achievement.