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Review: Blip. Repeat. and 179 Apples

D. Eric Bookhardt on sculpture by Ben Reid and paintings by David McPherson

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In the late 19th century, French author Jules Verne became the literary avatar of a bold new genre: science fiction. Although prophetic, Verne's futuristic inventions were based on the wood, steel and steam technology of his time. Fast forward a century, and his Victorian-era futurism resurfaced in the Dr. Who TV shows, steampunk fashions and the Automata series of local art exhibitions featuring retro-robotic devices. Automata came to an end when its curator, Myrtle von Damitz, left town, but one of its iconic artists, Ben Reid, resurfaced at Barrister's Gallery this month. Reid's elaborate wood and metal devices suggest what space junk might have looked like had it originated in the 19th century. They also double as robotic musical percussion instruments when activated. Like Verne's vision of "airships" that looked curiously like airborne sailing vessels, Reid's suspended Mayhem sculpture looks nautical, with frigatelike lines and extruded metal fittings suggestive of mysterious energy sources, maybe early magnetic levitation technology. Flip a switch and all that hardware spins like a dervish to produce the percussion of an over-caffeinated bebop ensemble. The similarly kinetic T-Cell (pictured) suggests how a satellite might have looked had Queen Victoria launched a space program. Seemingly orphaned in time, these mysterious cacophonous objects may be trying to tell us something, but what? According to Reid, their clamorous outbursts underscore their silence: "It is when they are mute that they say the most about the desire and loneliness of things."

  David McPherson's apple paintings in the adjacent pop-up gallery also have something to say, but their message is all about the "apple-ness" of apples. Simply but eloquently executed in grids or stand-alone compositions, their smoothly shining surfaces insinuate the tart sweetness of the first bite, as well as the history of desire handed down over millennia since the Garden of Eden. Rendered in a style of obsessive simplicity, they deftly undertake that most daunting of tasks: capturing the essence of something as it actually is. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT

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