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Gregory Barsamian's kinetic sculptures explore the roller coaster of the human mind.

Thrill Ride


"Innuendo Non Troppo: The Work of Gregory Barsamian"
Virginia Commonwealth University's Anderson Gallery
Through Oct. 24

Do you have the late summer blues? Have you already done the amusement park? Are you tired of sporting a coat of sweat on your body? Here's some advice: Make your way to VCU's Anderson Gallery for an exhibition that will knock your flip-flops off, chill your body and stimulate your senses.

Gregory Barsamian's kinetic sculptures, filling all three floors of the gallery, are on display in the current show, "Innuendo Non Troppo." Just stepping into the cold, dark space of the gallery offers immediate physical relief and mental invigoration. To view his works, one must pull aside a black curtain to pass through the doorway that opens into a dark, eerie space. It is similar to entering a movie theater on a sunny afternoon; one is overwhelmed by the assault of sights and sounds of the installations. The overall effect is one of a bad dream, a David Lynch movie, a disco dance floor, and an MTV commercial rolled into one.

The New York artist Barsamian is interested in the animation of three-dimensional objects. Each work consists of a large, circular, iron armature with acrylic items attached to its ends. By mechanically spinning this frame and synchronizing its rotation to strobe lights, the objects come to life. The effect is similar to watching a film. With an interest in the 19th-century philosophy of Freidrich Nietzsche and the 20th-century explorations of Carl Jung, Barsamian finds three-dimensional animation the perfect medium to explore the mysterious world of the human subconscious.

"Animation is ideally suited to the realization of subconscious images and alternate realities," writes Barsamian, "My passions lie in bringing these images to life in this most vivid form."

"The Scream" is a good example of his exploration into power, knowledge, psychology and dream imagery. Sixteen heads are attached to the spokes of a large mechanical wheel pivoting on a motorized central hub. The heads are self-portraits of the artist and when activated, they morph from a staid face to a screaming man to a huge engulfing mouth that actually swallows the head and then spits out everyday objects such as keys, toothpaste and a boot. This reverse evolution of peeling away the physical to reveal the interior subconscious and finding it full of mundane clutter suggests that the banality of everyday life has literally taken over the persona of the artist. The loud, piped-in music — a blend of snoring, rhythmic drumbeats, static and canned laughter — further emphasizes the result of commercialization and fraud that stifles the imagination and dulls the intellect.

Barsamian's interest in the subconscious as revealed through dreams is most apparent in "Die Falle" (The Trap). This time, the 16 heads spin at the bottom of a circular ladder. Each head rests on a pillow, asleep. Out of the head, a small, amoebalike and genderless human body emerges, turns into a round tire, then a square one, becomes a body again, and finally climbs into a bed in the form of a mousetrap. The work reminds us that while we doze, our brains continue to activate. The cerebral feedback of information and memory plays over and over again — a type of mental trap that makes for a fitful night of slumber.

Barsamian's sculptures truly have to be experienced to be appreciated, and there's no better time than now to escape the August heat and enter his narcoleptic world. More stimulating than any thrill ride, these works offer a true out-of-body experience. The roller coaster of the human mind makes for powerful subject matter. Go see for

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