Sometimes the art world seems to be all about novelty. In New York, the New Museum has long been synonymous with trendiness, and now at the Museum of Modern Art (my former employer), the pop-diva Bjork's massive exhibition has been widely panned for trying too hard to be cool, inflicting collateral damage on all concerned. Such stunts beg the question: What is their opposite? Is there a more timeless sort of visual art that not only transcends trends but also the divide between nature and technology, drama and subtlety, the sensual and the cerebral? Yes, there is. Lin Emery's kinetic sculptures epitomize that kind of timeless and finely tuned consistency. But like the timeless, pristine miracles of the natural world on which they are based, they can be easy to take for granted — unless something changes, as appears to be the case in her current show at Arthur Roger Gallery.
For Emery, whose local gallery exhibitions began in the 1950s at this city's pioneering co-op space, The Orleans Gallery, inconsistencies and rough edges were polished out long ago. Consequently, departures like her smallish, motorized work, Isadora Duncan, come as a surprise. Press a button and it does a scarf dance like its namesake, but this robotic diva is more enigmatic than flamboyant, a reminder of classical surrealism's prescient wariness of automata. Another surprise is Emery's somewhat larger Bosch Garden of Earthly Delights, her abstract and kinetic evocation of Hieronymus Bosch's nightmarishly sensual masterpiece. Both are experimental works, imperfect but refreshingly daring. Unexpected as well is her more polished hanging sculpture, Suspended, which suggests an airborne version of her iconic, leafy, windswept and elemental forms. What they all have in common with classic Emery sculptures such as Return (pictured) — an elegantly interwoven cluster of glistening silver crescents — is a quality of motion in the form of a sweeping recursive cycle. Here the orbiting arcs of those glistening silver crescents reflect the iconic patterns of this city, with its hints of things fragile yet eternal.