The Varnish Gallery on Natoma Street in San Francisco holds a special place in my heart. Aside from serving sake cocktails and lovely wines, they have often participated in fun movie events like Eight Tales.
Then last year during the build-up to the release of Serenity they increased their cool/nerdiness quotient dramatically by showing all 14 episodes of Firefly, two per week. Every Thursday for two months I drank sake, ate whatever my fellow Browncoats and I rustled up, and generally had a fine old time.
Fickle creature that I am, I then proceeded to abandon this coolest of gin-joints (sake-shacks?) until I staggered in on June 8th with guilty relief for the opening of Re: Assembled. This exhibit included three artists: Barry Kite, Dan Romo, and my favorite, the subject of this article: Nemo Gould.
As his name suggests, Gould’s kinetic sculptures are steampunk creations of wood and metal in the shape of our collective science-fictional unconscious. A giant squid uses metal tentacles to spin cogs. A little robot with glowing eyes does a sad little dance reminiscent of the infamous Dancing Baby meme. Best of all, the apple of my eye: Ocean Scene — where a weirdly-armored anglerfish fights or perhaps dances with a snail/ship in a slow-motion seesaw, waves move, and a starry backdrop lends the proceedings a romantic air straight out of the Arabian Nights.
The slow swaying of Ocean Scene was entrancing all on its own, but toward the end of the evening, “Moon over Montana” came over the speakers and it became poetry in motion. Media-saturated creature of my culture that I am, the associations that sprang to my mind were all Coen Brothers credit sequences and George Méliès silent films. Terry Gilliam’s Adventures of Baron Münchhausen in sculpture form.
The term kinetic sculpture has always brought to my mind images of ugly corporate art, so finding these clockwork creations was a lovely surprise. Each piece conjures up its own backstory, the robots lending an inevitable 1950s mad scientist flair to the proceedings while other pieces are more reminiscent of ancient automata, artificial life created by some brilliant alchemist.
If you go to Nemo Gould’s site, www.nemomatic.com, you can view clips of the art in motion and dozens of pieces not on display. I highly recommend that you do so.