“A Range of Motion,” NOLA Defender

By Brad Rhines via NOLA Defender

Lin Emery Displays Her Motorized Sculptures at the Ogden Museum, and in New Orleans’ Public Spaces.

'Flight' at K&B Plaza

'Lily' at Loyola

Lin Emery’s newest exhibition is moving. Literally.

The New Orleans-based kinetic sculptor conjures up the mechanized hum of another world through her theatrical plug-in pieces at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in an exhibition that includes everything from roving robots to the clang and thump of motorized music. While these installations are certainly electric, they’re decidedly different than Emery’s wind and water-driven creations that might be more familiar to the city’s residents.

Born in New York City in 1926, Emery moved to New Orleans in 1951 after a stint in Paris where she studied with Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine. By 1962, Emery was making a name for herself in New Orleans with an exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art. She was involved in the early days of the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, which was founded in 1976, and she now has large-scale public works installed around New Orleans, around the country, and around the world. In October, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art will present Emery with the annual Opus award, an award that recognizes an artist’s major contribution to the cultural landscape of the South.

Currently on view at the Ogden is a selection of Emery’s works from 1985 to 2005, focusing primarily on motorized pieces whose clanks and whirrs contrast with the more natural movements of Emery’s large outdoor sculptures. The show includes Flower Drum from 1985, which features four large wooden “petals” and a polished aluminum stamen that unexpectedly lurches to life, making discordant music as mallets thump the petals, mechanical arms pluck strings, and aluminum pieces jangle and sparkle, casting reflections of light around the room.

Also on view are Acolytes, a group of four robotic figures that vaguely resemble exercise equipment come to life as they move forward and backward, bowing and kneeling. The Ogden exhibition reveals a louder, more industrial side of Emery’s work, and the installations evoke a sense of unease as viewers move through the galleries experiencing the herky jerky mechanization of large objects in small rooms.

To fully appreciate the range of Emery’s style, it’s worth taking a tour of her public works in New Orleans, particularly the more organic, nature-inspired works that have become a part of the city’s landscape. Probably the most well-known of her sculptures around town is Wave, which is anchored in the pool in front of the New Orleans Museum of Art. Installed in 1988, this work consists of seven polished aluminum “waves” attached to a base that curves out of the water. Powered by the wind and recalling the motion of the sea, Wave embodies this style of Emery’s work.

Two other works in the same style include Lily at Loyola University and Flight at the K&B Plaza. The Loyola Sculpture Garden—in the Academic Quad between Marquette and Bobet Hall—was unveiled in the fall of 2008 and includes works by sculptures like Arthur Silverman and Wayne Amedee. Lily, a piece from 1998, was loaned to the sculpture garden in the spring of ’10 and then gifted to the university a year later by Dr. Nia Terezakis. Five polished aluminum rotating petals are mounted on a leaf-like base.

At the K&B Plaza, Flight overlooks St. Charles Avenue from the shadow of the Pontchartrain Expressway overpass. Five polished aluminum arcs give the illusion of forward momentum in this piece from 1978.

In addition to her wind-powered sculptures, Emery has also been recognized for her water-driven pieces, which she calls “aquamobiles.” At the Renaissance Arts Hotel in the Warehouse District (700 Tchoupitoulas Street), visitors entering the lobby are greeted with “Leaf Dance,” five bronze flowers that tilt and sway as water fills their leaves and then spills into the fountain below.

These public works, along with the Ogden exhibition, present an overview of Emery’s wide-ranging interests and abilities. As a young artist, Emery was strongly influenced by New Orleans, and now, more than six decades after she first moved to town, New Orleans’ artistic landscape has become strongly influenced by Emery.