By Jeffrey Lee
There's a touch of irony in the title Love of Machine, an exhibit at Site 21/21 of 13 artists' plugged-in, motor-driven or battery-operated dreams. It's really love-hate that fuels the show. The work crystallizes the ambivalence most of us feel towards those indispensable and maddening engines of everyday use, from car on down to pencil-sharpener. But several pieces also go beyond person-thing relations. They remind us that body and mind are also machines.
Greg Perry and Jeff Kreis' Sloucher, a mannequin of plastic and metal fused to a chair, illustrates this explicitly. The boxer shorts-wearing hardware is a jumble of clever visual equations--elbow joint equals elbow--but he also suggests the body's real mechanized insides. The irony of this machine-man is that, if he came alive, he'd still probably just slouch.
Savannah Gorton's and George Moran's self-portraits interpret love of machine as self-love, but with enough humor to offset the usual artist's narcissism. Gorton's person-high photograph conceals the photographer's face behind a camera. And Moran's two self-portraits, the show's most accomplished and accessible pieces, each integrate the artist's face as one moving part in a hypnotic whole, gears turning endlessly and to no purpose, like something you'd find in a surrealist penny arcade.
It's surprising, given the show's title, that no one explores the erotics of the machine. (Think of Duchamp's mechanical Bride or the gymnastics of Crash.) Instead, several retro-look pieces, like Rocky de la Vega's squirrel-headed rocket, settle for nostalgia that is charming but content-free. But one, Allison Trundle's film installation, deliberately questions this "Legislated Nostalgia" with a black-and-white loop of vintage toasters, blenders and electric fans, repeated ad infinitum until they lose their meaning, like a word said over and over. Still, they are flatteringly, even lovingly, photographed. So both sides of the machine show--its danger and its seductiveness--projected in the light of an ambivalence that is wonderfully articulated.
Love of Machine runs through June 8 at 2121 Isleta SW. Call 877-0970.
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