Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Machine that Ate Itself

@ Susan Inglett Gallery 522 West 24th, NYC 01.08.09-02.07.09

Eric Fertman likes conveyor belts, cacti, fingers, fists, pulleys, broken axles, scaffolding, stones, flop-eared dogs, penises, gears, piping, abdomens, spinal cords, air shafts and mitochondria. His dendritic, arterial, robotic compositions are simultaneously machines of production and decomposition, where the motley components of his palpitating laboratories each arrest an instant of growth or decay.

In Monument, A smooth axis with radiating, foot-like appendages faces a splintered wagon wheel on a large, black sculpture of wood and steel. The damaged wheel is mirrored in its parallel image, redoubled, polished and purified, such that the machine addresses and neutralizes in its form its own incompleteness. In an ink drawing, Slab 3, a white cell multiples among black pupae nested in the endoplasmic wood grain of a cartoon factory complex. A broken plank stuck with bent nails protrudes from the roof.

Fertman treats the technological powers of generation as pure appearance, equating the birth and death of the animal with the fate of the dated machine. His is a poetics of fertility and obsolescence, and his impossible apparatuses throb with vitality while incorporating the prophetic shapes of their own ruin. Rocket science and biology share in a diagrammatic plan that pivots on a single foot in a shiny, globular Mickey Mouse shoe.

Fertman’s minimalism is in pared-down comic book shapes, where the object is reduced to its dominant proportions: the wiry limb and the bulbous joint, the floppy ear and the oblong head. Slim wooden bars suggest bones and joists; structural elements dramatized in an aesthetics of gravity. The capacity of each structure to bear its own weight, to articulate its own architectural schematics, is the final purpose of Fertman’s industry. What he produces, then, is a caricatured portrait of bio-industrial life processes, where the bare form engenders a conceptual anatomy of mechanized life envisioned in both the nested egg and the fuel pump.



  1. menage of white gallery rooms, menagerie gone to black. Jasper Johns, Philip Guston, Louise Nevelson: celestial benefactors? From our context, time, into-- -- --. A kind of starkness is also darkness. Machine as that of a fine art tradition of new traditions eating itself? But the machine age is infracellular, structural is virtual now. Do we think through our imitation before we make presentation? Homage or spite? I am guilty of all this in my poems. Even my own feeling of having found a new compositional mode in my sense of the line doesn't mean I've leapt out of a New American Poetry context. I may have only just approximated a sense of the contemporary. Belated? Elated? If this work scares me, then perhaps its accomplishing something.

  2. Didn't catch you over the wknd, but would still like an xxx of the J.S. text. How to?

    as for thinking thru our imitation, it's always a simultaneous imitation, no? all that we have seen or at least liked at least of late? But with all we've seen, and how frequently we've seen it (tks to machines) we're more simultaneous than any who came before, so everything made is more different than ever, but at the same time it's easier to find similarities, so i think you just go crazy thinking about it, as if we can't gnaw off all our limbs fast enough. My solution: delete yr facebook acct. We'll see where it gets me.