New York

Meredith Danluck

Two arty scientists served as inspirations for this exhibition. One, Robert Moog, designed electronic music synthesizers and uttered the words that served as an epigraph for the show: “Musical instruments provide the most efficient and refined interface between man and machine of anything we know.” The other, Buckminster Fuller, was a multidisciplinary inventor and practical philosopher best known for developing the light, strong, and cost-efficient geodesic dome.

A formal geometry—fundamental to both the geodesic dome and the mathematically generated sound waves of the analog synthesizer—underlies Meredith Danluck’s array of objects, which worked together so beautifully it was hard to imagine any one element succeeding on its own. Toward Thee Infinite Beat (all works 2003), which takes its name from a Psychic TV album, was a large MDF sculpture at the center of the gallery that approximated an exploded section of a geodesic dome. On the walls, three “Energy Paintings” recalled Abstract Expressionism—specifically the angular lines of Hans Hofmann—with their gray-scale palette and slashing brushstrokes. Rogue Rogue, a Moog Rogue synthesizer (the economy version of Moog’s Prodigy) internally reconfigured so that players had to unlearn any previous keyboard knowledge to make music, was sitting ready for experimentation on the gallery floor. Finally, Circle Machine, which takes its title from a midcentury analog waveform generator, is a video montage of musicians and breakdancers and played on a small monitor virtually at floor level.

Fuller and Moog were Americans of a particular era and ethos, symbols of their country’s postwar reverence for technology while intellectually engaged with the fallout of European modernism (for Fuller, the International Style; for Moog, Varèse, Stockhausen, and Xenakis). Both were artists (one an architect, one a musician) and scientists, driven toward practical applications for their inventions. And both moved relatively freely between mainstream culture and advanced, technology-based aesthetics.

Danluck herself is multidisciplinary. She’s made art, clothes, and music and performs as a DJ. In this exhibition, she threaded together a particular set of American ideas: our characteristic discomfort with art, which does not generally demonstrate its practicality, and our fetishism of technological “know-how.” Unraveling the Rogue, dismantling the geodesic dome, and slashing her way through late-modernist abstraction, Danluck paid tribute to Moog’s and Fuller’s projects while admiringly taking them apart. She also made a case for how, in America, science has often been a fitting, even indispensable, ally of art.

Martha Schwendener