Automatonic

Automatonic

Ann P. Smith Robot

Ann P. Smith. Photo: Ann P. Smith.

Forget those boring industrial robots. Fabulous mechanical creatures, descendants of Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot and other distinguished forebears, continue to march herky-jerky through our imagination – and sometimes, our food.

Nathan W. Ferree, who creates freestanding ceramic robots from his home in the Missouri Ozarks, also has the creatures invading – or escaping from? – a quintessential American meal.

Robots can lurk in the deep, like the sleek, seemingly harpoon-resistant whale by Ann P. Smith of Portland, Oregon. Smith made it from salvaged electronics components and machine parts.

Mike Rivamonte uses standard robot “ingredients” – found objects and mainly metallic parts – but also works in wood for his limited-edition pieces with posable heads. He produced his first batch in blue, red, and other solids, for understated elegance. Next up is a set using vintage matchbook covers, Asian calligraphy- exercise books, and a 1920s Erector set book.

Even robots get old. One, in sporty plaid thermos-bottle trousers, has dropped his glasses. As he reaches for them, lights flicker and machinery grinds, thanks to custom-built circuitry by Pittsburgh artist Toby Atticus Fraley.

Bay Area artist Nemo Gould’s poor schlub of a mechanical man, who is built to move, is cycling furiously away from the mallet that keeps bopping him on the head. If only he knew that the secret lies in stillness.

Not all robots are hard and metallic. Chicago-area artist Kathy Weaver made a robot out of canvas and cotton, and it even has a robot bosom. Still doesn’t look too snuggly, though.

Milwaukee-based glass artist Devin Somerville took to heart the dictum, “Give a robot a fish, it’ll eat for a day. Teach a robot to fish ...”

Eric Claverie, an inveterate bricoleur (tinkerer) from Toulouse, France, makes illuminated creatures like the Mix-Master Bot. Don’t be fooled by the name, though – this “mix master” is for whipping up club beats, not angel food cakes.

Collective Unconscious tracks visual themes among artists. Spot a theme we should know about? Email us at [email protected].