Jul 18, 2016

Three-star review of Curious Worlds from Videolibrarian

Curious Worlds: The Art & Imagination of David Beck ***
(2015) 68 min. DVD: $299. DRA. Floating Stone Productions (dist. by Alexander Street Press, www.academicvideostore.com)

Although Indiana-born artist David Beck also produces paintings and drawings, his specialty is elaborate contraptions that resemble miniaturized mechanical toys. Beck’s intimately scaled but amazingly detailed pieces have been exhibited at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, whose director, Betsy Broun, talks enthusiastically here about their wittily winning character, as do friends and collectors of his work. For the most part, however, filmmaker Olympia Stone’s engaging documentary allows Beck to speak for himself, as he discusses his background and training—graciously giving credit to those who inspired and mentored him—while an array of archival material is used to complement his recollections. Beck invites the camera into his cluttered studio to explain how he contrives and executes his intricate creations, and he demonstrates how they work. Some depict single figures—dodos, elephants, and fish appear to be favorites—but others are amazingly complex, such as a movie theatre in which the seated figures happily toss popcorn into their mouths, or a tiny opera house where audience members are costumed like opera characters (these pieces can take years to fashion). Most of these function like automata or crank toys—without electrical motors that might easily break down—and all combine meticulous craftsmanship with a playfulness that extends to Beck himself, who is also a musician, recording many of the sound effects for his works. Offering a charming introduction to a man whose delightfully quirky art is well worth discovering, this is recommended. (Frank Swietek)

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Category: Review