Jane Livingston brought Alex Bay to my attention on the occasion of his retrospective at James Madison University in 2013. She and I drove over to attend the artists’ talk preceding the opening. Alex’s description of his own work was wonderful, the clarity of his spoken words contrasted sharply with works that were anything but accessible. There is a continuum in the arts, Jane spends her time discovering and documenting the real, forging links in the chain—and I thank her for it; the world owes her a debt for her tireless work.
Bay is a man of deep preoccupations–a common affliction. Everyone has something to say, very few figure out how to say it, to sort the message and the method—to puke it out; being an artist is difficult. Separating thought from creation, avoiding the literal, is a constant challenge–even for the experienced practitioner. Bay is a thinker and creator, he’ll occasionally produce a conceptual piece, but it’s an aside from the mainstream of his work, and he’ll point out it out with an almost apology.
Alex’s art, metaphoric carriages of bits & pieces, is the vehicle for an aspiration to more than can reasonably be expected. His sculptures, his narratives, embody anthropomorphic spasms and carry on, like so many of our journeys, longer than you would expect. Small windows to our machinations, dysfunction is an aspect of the experience, their length and breadth—the duration, part of the point.
His work is a well-formed retreat from the world—but where most retreats are an escape from reality, Alex works with open eyes. Focused directly on the illusory nature of human progress and achievement, his pattern of behavior, his sense-making operation (Art), manifests in the poignant space between sadness and ecstasy for the tragic beauty of life in this world.
Alex accepts and explicates our boundless appetite for folly and points it out with subtle humor. He is a true believer in his own work, I find myself similarly compelled.
“At twelve feet, Rudy’s Garage, is far from the largest cell-construct, but it is one of the more technically complex. An exaggeratedly large-scale collage in the modernist tradition, it need do nothing more than sit there—but the piece is kinetic. A cranking device, located at left, activates a lateral push-pull movement of the entire sculpture, triggering an intricate series of compound pendulums in the various compartments. Sounds, normally inaudible, are picked up by piezoelectric transducers and amplified. In addition to the familiar fiberglass and metal sculptures, and a few newspaper bundles, the pikece includes several small audio speakers and, as is typical, pieces of collage-work (often with words) and—another frequent element in his work—abstract paintings on panel. This strikingly intricate-yet-integrated work stands as a marvelous piece of art.”