Leonardo’s Flying Machine – And Jamie Hamilton
Arrhythmic Visions, Jamie Hamilton’s show at the Center for Contemporary Arts, alongside Alison Keogh‘s, titles itself with an adjective suggesting being out of rhythm. The word “arrhythmic” negates implications of a steady pulse, offering instead a state out of sync. The tightrope is immediately tensed in objecthood, the suspended steel and polycarbonate of Hamilton’s sculptures. Inspired by musical compositions ranging from Rachmoninoff and Chopin to Coltrane and Thelonius Monk, these imagined space machines look absolutely (ar)rhythmic with their repetitions of shapes and pared-down colors. Pieces of metal project as if hitting high notes while painters’ tape on the floor designates the aerial objects’ areas, with a grounded low beat. Hamilton’s elemental structures sometimes feel as erratic as jazz.
In Eros, steel and polycarbonate unite in a sculpture suspended off the wall by four metal discs. Inset and painted white to match the gallery wall, these circles camouflage as the viewer focuses on the white and silver shapes protruding from the wall’s vertical frame. Slender steel rods point wayward into the room, a large gramophonic steel cone faces toward the floor from which I half-expect to hear Coltrane playing. Hamilton’s work pays homage to Leonardo DaVinci with wondrous images that encourage imagination. Standing on the side of Eros, four or five polycarbonate diamond shapes curve into pirate-ship masts, as if wind blows from the ceiling to the floor. I want to turn the whole piece on its side and make believe that the wall is the sea or a fluffy cloud upon which sails such a vessel.
Sequencing numbers remain visible on dense white rectangular panels that fan like a xylophone, suggesting mathematical inception as the basis for this creation. Welding beads trail unabashedly at joints; imperfections ding the metal and pieces of mis-cut polycarbonate peak out from beneath their neighbor. If you can pull your eyes away from this beatific vision long enough to look skyward, a subtle chain of suspension helps keep the piece afloat. Secured to the gallery rafters by wire cables that swoop down from above, they deliver upon their descent this model ship in an invisible bottle.
Eros is the Greek God of Love, creation, love jones. It’s a sibling piece to Thanatos that spawns from the center of the gallery with two sets of three large black metal tubes that stand upright, angled like spotlights. Several rock climbers’ pulleys fasten at the top of each black tube and to the floor. Using only tension, these straps span outwards like an umbrella and anchor the vertical black poles with the kind of suspension reminiscent of the marvelous Brooklyn Bridge. In between these two sets a contraption floats effortlessly. White spandex sails pulled taut by thick wire crowd a heavy black Mercedes-like wheel vaguely centered and anchored, suspended, by the same pulleys as the pseudo spotlights. Thanatos is the Greek God of Death, which bewilders this majestic scene. Eros begins to evoke some primordial authorship born from passion barely stabilized. It’s all tenuous and questionably made to last.
The suspense of Hamilton’s work is its anachronistic impression. The CCA volunteer kept calling his work “steampunk,” a fairly obscure term adopted in the 80s to jokingly rival cyberpunk. Steampunk reawakens a Victorian aesthetic embroiled in fantasy, offering technological inventions appropriate to steam power but prior to the invention of electricity. It reimagined the gadgetry of Leonardo, with the post-apocalyptic sensibility of Mad Max and Jamie Hamilton’s arrhythmic visions don’t miss an anachronistic beat.