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'Steve Brudniak: Back From Samsara'

The artist's new solo show at ACC is a warp of the worlds

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Aug. 31, 2012

<b><i>Heirophantic Aperture (Samsara)</i></b>, by Steve Brudniak
Heirophantic Aperture (Samsara), by Steve Brudniak

Steve Brudniak, who creates sculptural works that resemble the sorts of things that Nikola Tesla might've had wet dreams about, opens a solo show, "Back from Samsara," at Austin Community College's Rio Grande Campus Gallery on Thursday, Sept. 6. It's been a while since the man's had a solo gallery exhibition, and one of the last times he was in a group exhibition, it was on the International Space Station – as part of the small array of art objects that local astronaut Richard Garriott took up there with him.

"He didn't really do an art show up there," says Brudniak, "but I have a video where you can see him doing a demonstration with some tennis balls on the space shuttle, and the watches I modified are stuck on this bulletin board behind him. He put Velcro on the back of them – everything he had was literally stuck on this bulletin board. And I was watching the video, and I was like, 'There they are! There they are!'"

The sculptures in this new show will be quite a bit bigger than those transmogrified faux-Cartier timepieces used as reliquaries to hold Garriott family hair clippings. The sculptures in this show will be about as big as some of the medico-scientific apparatus they resemble. To be precise: Medico-scientific apparatus from some parallel universe in which Art Nouveau never went completely out of style and the aesthetics of which were fully absorbed into industrial design. It's a lucky thing for the human race, probably, that the artist is an artist – and not some sort of power-hungry mad scientist.

"I've always had a real fascination for science museums," says Brudniak. "Since I was a kid, I've loved the displays in science museums and art museums. Just the fact that something has been made precious by being surrounded by glass, in a vitrine, or framed and on the wall. Like, have you seen the photograph, the world's first photograph, at the Harry Ransom Center? It's got a booth of its own; and then you go into the booth and there's a glass case; and in the case there's another case full of nitrogen; and in the nitrogen case is the photograph – inside a picture frame. And there's something gorgeous about that.

"So, yeah, almost everything I do has a central, ah, focus. Like a window or a tube or a case. Something that's being held, behind glass. And some of that relates well to the human psyche, you know? How there's this whole body that we've got that ages, it gets older and starts falling apart, gets gray ... but inside there's still that little 7-year-old kid, you know what I mean?"

Indeed, we do know. And we also know that most 7-year-old kids, or adults of any age who can appreciate the painstakingly crafted intersections of weird science and sheer beauty, will look upon the works in "Back from Samsara" with a sense of awe and wonder.


"Steve Brudniak: Back From Samsara" is on display Sept. 6-Oct. 19 at the Austin Community College Rio Grande Campus Gallery, 1218 West. For more information, visit www.austincc.edu.

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