Los Angeles Times

August 18th, 2000

Inspiring Links Between Art and Science

David Pagel

Over the past generation, the idea that artists are godlike creators hasg iven way to the notion that they are freethinking inventors, resourceful experimenters whose pragmatism and cleverness allow them to get the job done–often in inexpected ways.

At Angles Gallery, a 17-artist show drives this point home, sometimes belaboring it into a cliché and, at other times, pushing it to the next level. Organized by guest curator Nowell J. Karten, “Inventional” never lets you forget that art and science are equally creative endeavors, each capable of producing results that are bet described in terms of how inspired or uninspired they are.

The most captivating works bring a sense of the inexplicable down to earth. Accompanied by a four-page, frame-by-frame analysis, Jno Cook’s four-second film of a puppy playing with two scraps of cardboard is a piece of image-and-text Conceptualism that is as moving as it is goofy. Looped through a homemade device that the artist has cobbled together from an old fashioned film splicer, a VCR motor and ad pair of manually operated switches, “Rollodog” transforms an ordinary slice of life into a marvelous stop-action dance that demonstrates just how extraordinary mundane things can be.

Tom LaDuke’s diorama of emergency broadcasting antennae perched atop a steep rounded hill appeals to the imagination in a similarly satisfying manner. When you walk aroudn the accurately scaled model, you detect a tiny beacon of light flasuhing from the tip of the tallest antenna. You also notice that the hill resembles a bent knee–into which acupuncture needles have been pushed. Cast from that part of the artist’s leg that sticks out of the water when he slouches in his bathtub, LaDuke’s knee-shaped hill pays homage to the fact that our best ideas often come to us unexpectedly, during moments of relaxation.

Cockeyed idiosyncrasy animates Martin Kersels’ ungainly noisemakers, Tim Hawkinson’s inorganic tree limbs and CHris Finley’s Tupperware bowls jampacked with plastic odds-and-ends. Obsessiveness takes compelling shape in Agnes Denes’ drawing of a pyramid that appears to be twisting in the wind and in Tom Friedman’s sketchbook page coveredw ith variously sized dots, each made by placing the tip of am agic marker on the paper and letting the pen run dry.

THe least engaging works fail to elicit a sense of wonder. In juxtaposing a videotape of silkworms weaving cocoons with the actual cocoons, Xu Bing leaves too little room for the imagination. In contrast, Claudia Matzko’s “Tears Distillery” asks the imagination to do all the work. Filled with gallons of bottled water instead of salty tears, her elaborate glass contraption is an empty conceptual exercise that prefers the clarity and directness of symbolic meaning to the unpredictability of the real thing. IN art, as in science, there’s no substitute for inspiration, which always marches to the beat of its own drum.

Angles Gallery, 2230 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-5019, through Sept. 16. Closed Sundays and Mondays.