The Art of the Cabinet

Multitalented artist Kenn Coplan builds — we should say painstakingly and expertly crafts — vaudeville-style wooden machines, little cabinets of curiosities with strange peepholes and gears, and Tesla-like electric gizmos. There are knobs to pull, buttons to push, and surprises to jump back from — all of which you are encouraged to do. Peer into one and you might see the artist: He often hides his photographic image in their depths. Coplan's work evokes the mysterious age of technology's Wild West, when bells and whistles meant bells and whistles, mixed with a strain of the carnival freak show. "My work, at its most distilled level, is about art laced with a trickster mentality," he says on his Web site.

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In an exhibit of his machines, "Artwork by Kenn Coplan," one arcade-style fortune-telling box is a fright. The sign atop it seems straightforward enough — it has the words "Ask Cyton and He Will Answer" next to an image of the dapper psychic, who has only one eye. But encased in glass below it sits the actual Cyton, or rather his decomposing metal-flesh head. Coplan's macabre sense isn't limited to 19th-century wonders. Just check out the toys on his Web site, such as the Jr. Bomb Kit ("Now Safer") and the Jr. Executioner Kit ("The Excitement of Killing in Your Own Hands!").
Nov. 29-Jan. 3, 2007

 
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