Tensioned Suspension

[Image: "Cavity Mechanism #12 w/ Glass Dome" (2013) by Dan Grayber].

We've looked at the work of Bay Area sculptor Dan Grayber here before, but he's got a small show of new work opening up at Oakland's Johansson Projects gallery next month and it seems worth stopping by.

[Image: Another view of "Cavity Mechanism #12 w/ Glass Dome" (2013) by Dan Grayber].

Grayber describes his work as a study in "self-resolving problems," where highly-tensioned devices hold themselves aloft inside glass vitrines, as if floating in space, fighting their own weight while pushing relentlessly against the walls that contain them.

[Images: "Cavity Mechanism #9 w/ Glass Dome" (2013) by Dan Grayber].

Graybar uses an over-arching description for many of pieces seen here, writing, for example, that each piece is "a counterweight driven mechanism that wedges itself into the inside of a cavity (the glass dome in this case), suspending itself."

[Image: "Cavity Mechanism #11 w/ Glass Dome" (2013) by Dan Grayber].

They are as much displays of gravitational potential energy—like staged moments in some avant-garde machine-ballet whose only plot and purpose is to resist the pull of the earth—as they are "art objects."

[Images: "Cavity Mechanism #10 w/ Glass Dome" (2013) by Dan Grayber].

While the highly contained, desktop scale of each piece adds to the overall feel of pent-up force and concentration, it's hard not to want to see this guy working at Richard Serra-like proportions, scaled-up to the point of architecture.

[Image: "Display Case Mechanism #1" (2013) by Dan Grayber].

You walk into Madison Square Park in Manhattan only to see a giant steel mantis weighing five or six tons, painted in fluorescent construction orange, poised kite-like inside a polarized glass dome, holding boulders the size of Fiats, sprung, tensioned, and impossibly buoyant, as if somehow lighter than air.

[Image: "Cavity Mechanism #7 w/ Glass Dome" (2013) by Dan Grayber].

There is an artist's reception and opening on October 4, so mark your calendars ahead of time and stop in to meet the machines. More examples of his work can be seen here on BLDGBLOG or at the artist's own website.

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Blogger Lissy said...

Thank you for this! I will try to stop by.

August 17, 2013 1:13 PM  
Anonymous The World Archive said...

Avant-Garde taxidermy perhaps.

August 19, 2013 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kenneth Nelson comes to mind.

August 30, 2013 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ornamental wedge anchors.

August 30, 2013 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Steve Branam said...

As we say here in New England, "Wickid cool!" I love the way he translates vertical forces into horizontal.

October 02, 2013 7:07 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

wonderful pieces. it is interesting because these works really are about the constituents of any given structure, aren't they?

what he puts in front of your eyes, deceivingly tamed under glass bells does give you an idea of what's at play in the structure of a gothic cathedral, doesn't it? all those forces trying to tear the structure down, all in different directions with different pulls and pushes, all somehow outlining the shape of the the structure in virtue of their disruptive nature. the resulting form as a sort of geometric extension of their destructive needs.
harmony and beauty out of frustrating negotiations between physical forces.

and here's a meditation on form and shape that I find absolutely mesmerizing each and every time I read it or what it. it's from a 1978 BBC documentary on medicine called "The Body in Question". I transcripted it from the marvellous speech of Jonathan Miller, one of the most interesting, inspired, inspiring enquiring minds I've ever come across:

talking about statues, he says:

"a statue preserves its shape-as far as it can-whereas a fountain actually performs it"

and then he goes on with this masterstroke:

"Here in the Villa Giulia the energy is provided by the very tendency of water to find its own level: by falling from a reservoir, all the way up there; by coming through pipes which converge onto a nozzle. The system has just enough energy to rear up an endless overflow of substance, which makes up the immortal shape of the fountain.

Now of course it doesn't have to be gravity: a modern fountain is worked by a small pump, which is powered either by petrol or by electricity; but there has to be a source of energy of some sort. Each fountain owes its life and its wobbling improbability to the unceasing theft of energy-and in that sense it resembles those things which are growing alongside it. The shape and structure of these plants is just as much of a performance as that of the fountain which feeds them. But the pump, or the energy which keeps this spray performing is distributed throughout its very substance. In fact paradoxically the shape, the structure, the appearance of this plant is the very apparatus through which it filches the energy, which it needs to maintain its shape.

That... modest little fountain there... is a parasite on the head of pressure, whereas this plant is a parasite on the sun. That's why it's green; that's why it has leaves... in fact this whole flimsy apparatus is simply an elaborate machine for robbing the sun of the energy which it needs to outwit the universal running down of things.

And so for that reason, although this statue looks more like me than a fountain does, the fountain actually is more like me-because, like a fountain, I too am an open system through which material continuously flows, briefly expressing itself as me, before it vanishes once again into the world at large, from which, like the fountain, I withdraw some of it again in order to maintain myself."

February 20, 2014 8:36 AM  
Blogger pete v said...


June 19, 2014 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I may take a brief moment and nominate this as "comment of the year"...

"a statue preserves its shape-as far as it can-whereas a fountain actually performs it" is a wonderful quote, and one I'd never seen before.

February 23, 2015 11:54 AM  

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