Craft as Muse in the Age of Digital Manufacturing
A solo exhibition by Chris Bathgate
On view via appointment from November 20th through January 3rd, 2022.
Zoom Artist Talk
Wednesday, December 15th, 2021 at 6:30PM
Gallery Open Hours With Book Signing
Saturday, December 11th, 2021 from 4-6pm
“Within the arts, the word “craft” has always been problematic. Even in basic usage, it can be a noun (what you do) and it can be a verb (how you do it). It is used to describe a class of practices (such as pottery), as well as elements within them. Like the word “art” it can be near impossible to define in a way that satisfies everyone.
When viewed through the lens of modern manufacturing, the idea of “craft” with its traditional emphasis on handwork and dexterous skill, can seem out of place. But for me, as a self taught machinist who routinely uses both manual and automated processes, the idea of craft only becomes richer and more nuanced with the introduction of automation. Craft has been a conceptual through line in much of my sculpture work, even as I have pursued digital manufacturing as a medium.
Machine work is technologically holistic, it straddles the worlds of design, engineering, and the materials sciences. It has geological layers, with modern processes augmenting old ones. The mixing of old and new processes within my sculpture practice inspires a curiosity about other studio crafts that have been transformed through their adoption by artists. Practices such as glasswork, woodturning, and ceramics are all crafts that (like machining) got their start on a factory floor.
These traditional crafts however, differ from machine work in important ways. Unlike machining, the above craft movements represent processes that have largely fallen out of commercial use. They have since been picked up by artisans and turned towards more creative ends. Likewise,
these crafts have signature forms that are common within their trade (Vases, bowls, urns). Shapes that tell that craft’s particular history and have become inseparable from its visual language.
While machining is a vocation that shares a similar industrial past, it is an evolving industrial process that remains in commercial use today. Likewise, there are few signature objects that uniquely represent modern machine work as a medium, as the same paradigm of craft and craft-form does not exist. Because of this, I have spent considerable time exploring what a “machined craft-form” might be. What forms might come to define such an expansive discipline as it cements its place within the arts.
In my sculpture work, I have become captured by the idea of borrowing craft-forms and materials from other Industrial mediums. I might remix a simple flower vase into a highly engineered object ringed by razor sharp knife-forms, or take a novel mechanic and integrate it into a stubbornly sculptural format. The goal is to bring attention to the sculptural nature of these utilitarian subjects by challenging their own functionality. By thwarting easy classification, these objects ask that they be considered for more than mere utility.
The works in this exhibit seek to find connections across various industrial eras. Every craft, no matter how old, was cutting edge technology at some time, and the arts are a powerful tool for understanding and preserving our technological heritage.”
For purchase inquiries or to make an appointment to see the exhibition email firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Artist:
Chris Bathgate is a self-taught machinist and machine builder. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he has spent 21 years building and modifying a variety of metalworking tools and machinery. He employs these tools in the making of intricately machined metal sculptures that defy easy classification.
His works are fundamentally engineered, every detail methodically designed from the ground up. Some of his sculptures take the form of small mechanical objects with tactile functionality, while others represent a more traditional approach to sculpture through his unique medium. Detailed schematic blueprints that illustrate his complex assemblages often accompany each sculpture.
His work illustrates that creativity alone does not drive human imagination, but that inspiration often comes from the need to solve and overcome technical challenges. By combining the math and logistics of modern machine work with a more emotive and aesthetic problem-solving ethic, the artist excels at bending the constraints of his medium to great artistic effect. He often plays on ideas of implied utility and ambiguous design intent. He revels in the psychological mystique that can be created when one strips away the pretense of functionality. The result is a precise and other worldly art object that exudes a creative logic all its own.
Bathgate has been featured in American Craft Magazine, Make Magazine, the Russian edition of Popular Mechanics, Sculptures Pacific, and Best of American Sculpture Volume II. He was awarded grants in 2007 and 2011 from the Pollack-Krasner Foundation. He has also earned recognition in his own hometown, having received the Mary Sawyers Baker Prize in 2014, a Baltimore “B” grant in 2011, and a Creative Baltimore grant in 2008. Bathgate’s works have been exhibited in a variety of museums and galleries across the United States, including the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the National Museum of Industrial History, The Baltimore museum of Industry, the American Craftsmanship Museum, and the Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum. Bathgate’s sculptures are held in numerous private collections around the world.