Robots, Rockets, and Space: An Exhibition Statement From Curator Kirsten Bengtson-Lykoudis
Jules Verne, Ursula Le Guin, and Ray Bradbury obsessively constructed imaginary realms. With technology catching up to science fiction, the boundaries between the two have become razor-thin. The artists in our June exhibition give their take on this vanishing membrane by conjuring unique worlds, both within and without. They probe the reaches of the universe and boldly navigate by the stars. From explosive views of the cosmos to images of robots, rockets, aliens, and machines, they blast outside our earthly domain. Whether transporting us to another dimension or probing the depths of the human mind, these forward-thinking creators share a sense of fantasy and exploration.
Their futuristic array of sci-fi-inspired work ranges from mirrored infinity sculptures to 3D-printed robots, artifacts from another universe, luminous images of the night sky, and signals from extraterrestrials. Selected from thousands of entries to NOT REAL ART’s annual grant, the work in Robots, Rockets, and Space defies gravity, shatters media barriers, and hovers between fact and fiction.
In the exhibition, an astronaut atop a coin-operated rocket ride accentuates the narrowing gap between childhood dreams and evolving perceptions of reality. Elsewhere, handmade objects collide with hyper-realistic space gear against digitally altered skies. As technology moves forward at warp speed, Robots, Rockets, and Space takes us on a dizzying journey through space and time. As Ursula Le Guin wrote in The Left Hand of Darkness, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Celestial Bodies and Planetary Permutations
Artist and composer Eric Burns’ innovative “Blue Moon” calendar tracks the lunar phases through sculpture, video, and sound. Jina Chae’s luminous “Super Moon” captures the jaw-dropping grandeur of a giant orb rising over the hills of Los Angeles. Evan Bobrow’s mixed-media “Moonrise Project” presents fictitious studies of the moon as bonafide scientific discoveries with graphs and technical drawings. M. McCubbins’ uplifting “All That You Touch You Change” scatters excerpts from Octavia Butler’s dystopian novel Parable of the Sower across a starry landscape.
Retro Rockets and Apocalyptic Machines
Los Angeles conceptual artist David Roy founded the space agency BLACKNASA, which is devoted to rocket science for peaceful and creative pursuits. His tongue-in-cheek photograph “Rocket in Apt. 201” brings the wonders of space exploration into a faceless 21st-century living room. Ferdinand Metz’s illuminated assemblage “Jupiter Express” transforms a vintage coffee maker into a spaceship with the retro nostalgia of early space vessels in early sci-fi films. The post-apocalyptic machines in Kathleen Studebaker’s eerie “GeoGyro” installation contemplate the end of human civilization.
Galactic Journeys and Cosmic Explorers
April Winter’s haunting self-portrait “Hide and Seek” shows her sealed off from the world like an argonaut from a Jules Verne novel, plumbing the depths of human isolation. Simona Ruscheva’s meditative “Galactic” painting invites viewers to explore their inner universe by contemplating their place within the galaxy. NUL’s futuristic image of an artist’s head hovering above the clouds with a plane soaring behind them reflects their faith in the transportive power of art. Keely Majewski’s edgy “Helmet Hair” conveys the relentless ennui of metaverse dwellers. Shelby Shadwell’s realistic “Space Blanket” drawings provide shelter to those bold enough to escape planet Earth.
Robots and Extraterrestrials
After taking up 3-D printing, sculptor Charles Mulford created cartoon-like robotic figures engaged in offbeat domestic scenarios. Ezerd Land’s CMYK Adopt-a-Robot paintings encourage viewers to invite robots into their homes and lives. Gary Webernick’s Big Brother-like “Cam-Bot” makes a chilling statement about surveillance. Katherine Arion’s abstract “Signs from Above” and Karine Guyon’s “Extraterrestrial” confirm we’re not alone. Anthony Contini’s existential painting of a non-human figure peering out of a cave, “Looking for Light at the End of a Tunnel,” reflects the uncertainty and solitude of the creative process.
Fictional Worlds and Alternate Universes
Michael Mooser’s surreal Monad was subliminally inspired by a Native American symbol for the Supreme Being. Alice’s mirrored infinity sculpture “Tesseract” takes viewers on a Madeleine L'Engle-like journey to the fourth dimension. Ceramic sculptor and sci-fi writer Philip Thomas meticulously creates artifacts from a world of his own making. Maryland-based artist Aubrey Garwood digitally collages dandelion seeds over images of deep space to explore the fleeting quality of existence.
The Big Bang
Tiamet “Ti” Webb equates the chaos of a broken relationship with a cosmic disturbance. As an abstract artist, she aims to challenge stereotypical notions of the type of art Black women create. Fascinated by fractal patterns and cellular interactions, Elizabeth Knowles takes us back to the moment it all began with her explosive painting “The Big Bang.” Hilary Mizrachi-Lee considers her work “portals to higher frequencies.” Inspired by a photograph from the Hubble Telescope, her vibrant work “Helix Nebula” portrays the residual death of a star with swirling colors and forms.