Kinetic Art Exhibit “Simply Steampunk” Opens at Morris Museum

Get in gear for the museum's second installment focused on art that moves.

The Buddha by Walter Rossi

Remember the awe you felt as a child after receiving a new toy? The Morris Museum’s new exhibit “A Cache of Kinetic Art: Simply Steampunk,” let’s you relive the wonderment of childhood.

All 18 works in the showcase, the second installation in a four-year series, are interactive and have elements of steampunk, a subgenre of science fiction that blends 19th-century and futuristic aesthetics.

“It’s this sort of never-never world,” executive director Cleveland Johnson said at the member and press preview. The exhibit is open to the public from March 15- August 11.

Twelve artists, three from New Jersey, created the diverse movement marvels seen in “Simply Steampunk.” Some are “quintessential steampunk and others are a broader interpretation,”  Johnson explained.

David Bowman’s three pieces Time Machine, Pterence: The Pteranodon and Tink: The Northern Pike, land on the traditional end of the steampunk art spectrum. Gears exposed, the wood and metal sculptures by the Pennsylvania-based artist enliven with a push of a button.

Time Machine by David Bowman 


Matthew Steinke’s Deliriums A inhabits an entire wall in the back of the gallery. The piece, which looks like a football strategy play because of its various lines and shapes, also makes noise. On the Internet, Steinke found interviews and monologues from people with personality disorders. He used that audio to score music. The soundtrack plays electronically through the percussion instruments he built from objects including a school bell and mini drums.

Mike Richison, who teaches as Monmouth University and lives near Asbury Park used sound equipment, lampshade-like pieces, light projectors, and turntables to build Spin Stack. “A turntable is a pretty useful piece of equipment, but in my art I like to make things bigger, sculptural and visual as well,” says Richison.

Lumia Series by Will Rockwell

When viewing Lumia Series’ three crystal balls, it feels like you’ve entered outer space. The frosted globes containing LED lights are the work of West Orange artist Will Rockwell.

The three jurors for this exhibition were Brett King, who exhibited in last year’s “Curious Characters” and is the founder of AutomataCon; Ann Aptaker, professor at the New York Institute of Technology; and Rein Triefeldt, a Trenton-based artist and co-founder of Kinetic Art Organization.

“They did a marvelous job at creating environments,” says Triefeldt about the artists. “That’s, what, a 20-foot wall?” he says, pointing to Delirium A. “And that one needed darkness,” he says motioning to Lumia Series.

For more interaction, visitors can take photos at the selfie station decked out in moving gears. Related programs include a screening of Scorcese’s Hugo, a film about a mysterious automaton, on April 7. Children can build their own automatons on June 16. And just before the exhibit closes, museum goers can take a behind-the-scenes tour on August 8 with artist David Bowman.

Hours: Tues-Sat, 11 am-5 pm; Sun, noon-5 pm

Admission: $7-$10

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