Robots at SFM

Paul Allen already has a robot section in his vanity sci-fi museum—R2D2, posters from Metropolis and The Terminator, Cylon costumes from the first TV run of Battlestar Galactica. (Not sexy, not scary.) There’s even an annoying loop video including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and the voice of HAL in 2001 to explain the history of robots dating back to Isaac Asimov and Karel Capek. What’s new, in this show extended through May 3, is the borrowed toy trove, numbering about 130 in all, from noted graphic artist Tom Geismar. The one-room exhibit, “Robots: A Designer’s Collection of Miniature Mechanical Marvels,” is exactly that. Everything’s under glass, since no boy aged 12-and-under could resist grabbing these toys to play; and there are helpful laminated robot menus—rather like choosing at a sushi restaurant—to identify the numbered items on display. Behold Srungle, Gundam, Govaria, Mekanda Robo, Gaiking, Mecha Godzilla, and Daikyozin! Life-size or larger, they’d be terrifying. But what’s interesting here is the baby boomer devolution of form. Largest and best are the handmade wooden creations of artist David Kirk—like knee-high nutcrackers assembled from military surplus parts and old carpentry scraps. Both Popular Mechanics and Forbidden Planet are the influences here. Over the decades, however, robots have become smaller, plastic, and more fungible for tiny fingers. We live in the age of Transformers and Michael Bay. Robots have lost their single-purpose purity. Their prime directive today is to sell across as many platforms as possible. BRIAN MILLER

Dec. 20-May 3, 10 a.m., 2008

 
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