Sculpture in Motion: Flower power

The Atlanta Botanical Garden gets movin'

Most backyard gardens have some wind chimes or perhaps a weather vane among the homegrown herbs and tomato plants. The Atlanta Botanical Garden re-imagines that notion on an appropriately grand scale with Sculpture in Motion: Art Choreographed By Nature, the new summer exhibit showing May through October.

Guest curator Brigitte Micmacker of San Francisco's Sculpturesite Gallery says kinetic art may be one of the most accessible forms of art. "It appeals to the engineers in us, the part of us that wants to know why things are made a certain way. It appeals to people who like dance and choreography, and also has a musical element, with rhythm and tempo."

Sculpture in Motion features work by 20 artists from around the globe, and is the most extensive survey of outdoor kinetic art ever assembled, according to the Botanical Garden. At the admissions entrance, George Rickey's "Two Lines Oblique" looks like a more delicate, serene version of an industrial windmill. Ralfonso's "Dance With the Wind" features a stack of shiny globes that undulate and occasionally smack into each other like a drunken solar system.

Many pieces resemble oversized, elaborate mobiles and are powered by the breeze, but Micmacker avoided relying solely on wind-driven pieces. "In July and August in Atlanta, wind can be totally absent. What I have to come up with are ideas to have pieces that were not exclusively wind-activated. Even on days when there's no wind, there will be some activity." "Rockspinner6" by Atlanta's Zachary Coffin resembles a massive chunk of cinderblock wall, and is mounted on an axis with such careful balance that a child can spin it around.

"When you're adding the fourth dimension – time, which is what movement is about – you're entering a new layer of challenges," Micmacker says. "You're working with physics, with mechanical engineering, with nature and aesthetics. That all combines to make things more complicated than putting a sculpture up."

Although most of the pieces are outdoors and accessible to the public, they don't require constant upkeep. "We're talking about maintenance every year, or five years. The pieces are all for sale." And any one of them would put your neighbor's roadrunner weather vane to shame.

Sculpture in Motion: Art Choreographed By Nature. May 3-Oct. 31. Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1345 Piedmont Ave. Tues.-Sun., 9 a.m.-7 p.m. $9-$12. 404-876-5859. atlantabotanicalgarden.org.

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