It was an eerie scene walking into an art gallery in Williamsburg Brooklyn, where on the walls were 666 paintings of robots disemboweling themselves and each other, leaving little robot pieces strewed about the canvas.
It was the gallery's third showing of
Nicholas Kuszyk, a Virginia-born artist who uses robots for inspiration to study human nature and classical art composition. For two months Kuszyk lived in isolation on an 80-acre vineyard in Luray, Virginai, to complete the 666 paintings.
The finished works mimic the compositions of classical artists like Goya and Paul Rubens or are obvious takes on Egyptian wall art and Greek statues like the Venus De Milo.
"It started seven years ago using [robots] as a vehicle to convey certain things," said Kuszyk, "but it's not about robots. I like making inexpensive art that people can put on their walls, I don't think about it too much," he confessed.
If robots aren't the subject matter of the paintings, as Kuszyk claims, they certainly are the form that his art takes. All of the paintings have whimsical black and silver robots that resemble Bender from Futurama, featured against bright colorful backgrounds. Although initially playful and intriguing, most of the paintings have a violent undertone, with robots tearing each other apart one metallic piece at a time. His paintings dance across the delicate line of dreary and inviting, similar to the aesthetic of Tim Burton's "A Nightmare Before Christmas." It's a strange combination of Dr. Suess and Hieronymous Bosch.
Jonathan Kinsley, an architect who was drawn into the showing, bought one of the few paintings that didn't have a foreboding tone. "I didn't think I'd want to have something distressing on my wall and a lot of these have something distressing about them," said Kinsley. Although the battered robots are enough to cause bad dreams, Kinsley was struck by Kuszyk's wide imagination and use of color in the paintings.
Others read into the robots as small analogies for the human condition. "They are the embodiment of modern life, we are all mechanical these days and these express so much, they are like little people," said Liane Nikitovich, a long-time fan of Kuszyk's robot paintings.
Because of their size, quantity and the fact that most of his paintings are made from recycled wood and paint, it's not uncommon for a raggedy hipster to walk into one of Kuszyk's showings and leave with a painting for as little as $30. Part of the appeal of these little robot paintings is that you can almost picture them in your bathroom, distracting you during intimate moments of bowel trouble, and their price tag doesn't hinder that fantasy.
Mid-way through the showing a dozen Critical Mass bikers showed up to see if there was anything that would strike their fancy. "Who doesn't like robots?" said Ryan Kuonen. "His openings are so cool, cause you can come see art you like and you can buy it too," she continued.
Whatever isn't sold at McCraig-Welles will be shipped to Kuszyk's next show at the Blue Bottle Gallery in Seattle. After two months of intense solitude, perhaps a large influence on the dark nature of the robots, Kuszyk said he doesn't want to draw another robot for the next five months. Having grown a long sea-captain beard, Kuszyk's next plan is to move to Los Feliz, the Williamsburg of Los Angeles, where he will work on a book entitled "R Robot Saves Lunch."