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Joan Robey: Natural Ingredients

Posted May. 28, 2009, 5:00 am

(unassigned)

One solution to the problem of how to recycle discarded machine parts, appliances, and other leftovers of modern life is to use them in art pieces. That’s the modus operandi of artist Joan Robey, whose exhibit “Natural Ingredients” at the Lois Lambert Gallery uses materials from the junkyard to create amazing objects d’art.Consider the small sculpture “Lake Apparatus” which may catch your eye when you enter the gallery. With its curved neck, it looks a bit like a metallic swan, but it is wrought from a pulley, frying pan, edger, welding tank cap, t-bar, and square pipe fitting. Its grace belies its ordinary and unromantic “ingredients.”The wall hanging “Water Gate” looks like an exotic insect. It also uses a frying pan, combined with tent stakes, a compass, and chain link fence bracing, to form a sculpture that would have taken a lot of careful metalwork had it been welded from scratch.Robey’s works use mostly metal objects, although wood, glass, and plexiglass are also “ingredients.” She doesn’t polish, paint, or otherwise restore the salvaged materials. They display rust, cracks, the dusky colors-browns, reds, oranges-of weathering and decay. “A lot of pieces I found on the desert,“ says Robey. “I pick up a lot of things that I relate to for the form-and then find its use.”Some works might have a use as amusing furniture. “Waterdog” is an upside-down metal bucket on a stand with a side-view truck mirror-it could serve as an industrial-style vanity. “Effervescence” is a fish trap suspended from a wagon wheel. The trap contains balls of blue glass, a soothing visual that might be used as a focus for meditation.Two large structures offer the possibility that they could be used as isolation chambers, for very different reasons. “Lunar See” is a booth made from white plexiglass panels, with a teak outer deck. It has no actual point of access but its vibe is definitely new age. “Terra Forma” on the other hand, looks like a time machine wrought by a very funky mad scientist. Made from about 25 industrial discards including an old film reel, an oven hood, wheel barrow, funnel, and even an old ice cream truck, the rusty booth does have a door, but doesn’t look like a structure that one would enter voluntarily.Robey’s creations show real imagination as well as a knack for re-using forms to create new forms. While most of these pieces defy one’s expectations as to where they might be displayed, traditionalists might want to buy pieces from the “Close-Up Series,” small square mixed-media paintings that show some of Robey’s works in close-up, suitable for hanging on a wall.“Terra Forma” and “Lunar See” also feature sound effects, created by the Mirror’s multi-talented Steve Stajich. At the opening reception, Stajich and his rock band entertained and passed a hat containing slips of paper with suggested names for the band. The name finally pulled was “Robots For Old People.” Somehow, that seemed just right.

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