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Picks by Christine Brenneman

Machines of  Metal and Light

Machines of Metal and Light
Thru Sep 30; Tue-Sat noon-5pm; Crucial Media Center, 41 Frelon St (near Fourth and Brannan); 415.346.0410 or www.blasthaus.com.

Michael Sturtz's large-scale mechanical sculptures inspire the same type of wonder and curiosity that a child feels at the Exploratorium. His works combine electricity, motors, appliances and metal in a fashion reminiscent of Dr. Frankenstein. Harnessing all these elements, Sturtz creates his own science museum of odd yet riveting pieces. In Daluvmacheen (1998), Sturtz adeptly creates an enormous model of the human heart made of steel in which he has embedded an industrial laundry machine. Red fluid courses through the contraption, with its knobs and levers, and lights flash as the heart vibrates to the rhythm of the spin cycle. Likewise, Atomic Blender (1994) consists of an old, rusty cylindrical tank with three large oval windows cut into it, revealing a swirling mass of water. Forming a sort of aqueous tornado around a blue tubular light, Atomic Blender has the same effect as watching the ocean; it's at once mesmerizing and potentially destructive.

The Bay Area  Awards Show

The Bay Area Awards Show
Thru Sep 25; Wed-Sat noon-5pm; New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom; 415.626.5416.

New Langton Arts' latest exhibit showcases the outstanding work of the 1999 recipients of the Bay Area Awards. At once edgy and whimsical, the art of Joyce Hsu and Rachael Neubauer encourages viewers to climb inside the artists' imaginations. Made with sculptable foam and painted zinc pink, Rachael Neubauer's sculptures come across as odd hybrids of sex toys and doll parts. Her Moles (1999) presents a smooth pink bottom protruding from the gallery wall; this rear end is disembodied and flawlessly plastic with three small brown moles on one cheek. Fellow artist Joyce Hsu takes one into a fantasy world of her own making. In Hsu's alternate universe, pure blue walls surround a panoply of plastic lawn-ornament-style flowers and brightly colored insects. Stepping into this installation is like being thrust into the dizzyingly false (yet real?) realm of films like The Wizard of Oz, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland.

Looking Glass

Looking Glass
Thru Sep 30; can be viewed anytime; Marriott Hotel, 55 Fourth St (at Mission); 415.896.1600.

Local artist Sacha Eckes once again proves her formidable talents with her installation at Yerba Buena's newest mini-venue: the window in the Marriott Hotel across the street, dedicated to giving emerging artists a place to expose their work. In the piece, Looking Glass, Eckes utilizes her signature block-headed cartoon characters to address themes of emptiness and deception of ourselves and others. A large red creature--painted directly on the glass--stares blankly out of the window, but the gaping hole in his middle shows that something is missing from his life. Various "faces" or sides of the main figure's personality spring up throughout the installation: some sad, some sexy, some lascivious, but all confused. The graphic, animated look of the figures makes them immediately accessible, as does the theme, which anyone can relate to. Clearly, Eckes comments on the capacity for good and evil that lurks in each of us.

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From the August 30, 1999, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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