Carrying on a Political Absurdist Legacy / Hyperallergic

Rube Goldberg (Image via

CHICAGO — Cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883–1970) was best known for his depictions of complicated contraptions with far too many moving parts built to solve the simplest of problems. These “Rube Goldberg machines” appeared in his work, and were used as devices to poke fun at the roundabout nature of American bureaucratic and political systems in the post-World War II era. Rube Goldberg’s Ghost, a large group exhibition on view at Columbia College’s small Glass Curtain Gallery (through May 4) features work by more than 20 artists who may very well be Goldberg’s companions in that they, too, enjoy laborious machinations with political undertones.

The sprawling show features work by artists including Matthew Aron, Karen Bovinich, Fischli & Weiss, Joanne Greenbaum, Joseph Hersher, Taylor Hokanson, Industry of the Ordinary, Heidi Kumao, Mark Porter, and Graem Whyte. Rather than referring to the progenitor’s ghost, however, the exhibition should be called Rube Goldberg’s Spirit. No hauntings take place here; rather, each work of art, selected by curator Elizabeth Burke-Dain, suggests a way that Goldberg’s spirit lives on. The sheer amount of objects in this show at times feels overwhelming, like walking into a weird grandpa’s attic overloaded with rinky-dink gadgets, funny contraptions, and old Playboy magazines leftover from better, sunnier days. It’s an installation well worth diving into — if not for its modern-day take on political systems, then at least for its masturbation machines.

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