Mechanical & Luminous: The Artwork of Gary Justis

SunCell_2015_©_Gary_Justis Sun Cell, 2015, kinetic, LED light source, aluminum, motor, dimensions variable © Gary Justis

Gary Justis earned His Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1979. He has developed his work professionally in the area of sculpture, printmaking and photography for the last 39 years. He lived and worked in Chicago from 1977 to 1999. He currently resides in Bloomington Illinois where he continues his work in sculpture, printmaking, experimental photography and writing. He holds a Professorship at Illinois State University. He has exhibited work at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Phillip Morris, NY, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, NY, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. He has also exhibited work in numerous exhibitions at private galleries in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Gary Justis’ work is included in various collections throughout the country; most notably: The Museum of Modern Art Library, The New York City Library (special collections), The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Artist’s Books Collection, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC and JP Morgan Chase, New York, NY.

You can find out more about Gary at his website.

Be sure to turn on sound for the video.


My sculptures are inspired by an on-going immersion in mechanical motion and the cause-and-effect actions of machinery.

Torrent and Cold Fire, 2015, LED light sources, light filters motors, reflective foil, dimensions variable © Gary Justis

In the process, I discover metaphors for human action in its complexity and glorious imperfections.

Community Machine Gun, 2007, upholstery, wood, aluminum, animation projection,
sculpture dimensions: 51 x 84 x 68 inches, projection: dimensions variable © Gary Justis

Much of my inquiry comes purely from play and a curiosity of useful objects. When I developed an interest in a science of need, the invention of moving objects became an extension of the intellect.

This is the Thing, 2000, upholstery, aluminum, 108 x 49 x 29 inches © Gary Justis

This provided subjective interactions with the body, like the use of a tool, but with an extension of its/their utilitarian function. Forcing objects beyond their intended use is a human experience and ultimately a sculptural experience.

The Pond, kinetic, 2015, LED light source, aluminum, motor glass, dimensions variable © Gary Justis

I’m looking for a conciliatory relationship between the machine and the body as an expansion of meaning through time and motion through physical space.

Head on Horizon Redux, 2000-2010, kinetic, light glass, wood aluminum, motors animation,
dimensions variable © Gary Justis

Because of the mutability of this process, time becomes a “material.”

Heads on Horizon from Gary Justis on Vimeo.

A “machine narrative” emerges out of an intelligence expressed through mechanical action and repetition.

TimeSlap_2017 _© _Gary_Justis
Time Slap, 2017, aluminum, colored plastic, motors, glass, LED light source, dimensions variable © Gary Justis

Randomness makes the narrative ever more complex. This is either programed into the individual works or it occurs out of the unpredictability of handmade machines. Ideas are generated through the work’s interaction with physical and mental space. We experience the unfamiliar, moving thought and awareness into new territory.

Time Slap from Gary Justis on Vimeo.


Photography and Video

My photographs and videos are an extension of explorations in sculpture, kinetics and light.

Above the Rafters, modified photograph of projected light, archival pigment print, 48 x 32 inches © Gary Justis

I have a material-based design processes in fabricating a variety of machines that demonstrate mechanical motion in real time. In the mechanical processes I use video projection and projected light/images.

Incantation, photograph of projected light, archival pigment print, 48 x 32 inches © Gary Justis

I had the realization that light phenomena and other objects from my sculpture could be used to create another source of visual expression through photography and individual video works. These photographs and videos are not computer generated.

Dei-Lee, modified photograph of projected light, archival pigment print, 48 x 32 inches © Gary Justis

They are digital captures of real-time setups. I use analog procedures (involving LED, incandescent, refracted and reflected light).

Bride Sway, modified photograph of projected light, archival pigment print, 48 x 32 inches © Gary Justis

At first I was excited to see what would happen as I plied objects and light reflective materials together, knowing the camera would give a reading different from what I was seeing.

Tenth Arrival from Gary Justis on Vimeo.

I found I was being visited by images unlike any I had seen before. I continued to explore the unfamiliar and found myself discovering strategies of capturing images that suggest simulated life forms, objects and structures.

Night Flight (in five parts for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) 2018 from Gary Justis on Vimeo.

Now I try to locate and record unfamiliar subjects that lie on the edge between still visual order and material displacement.

Pocky Ler-Lers, modified photograph of projected light, archival pigment print, 32 x 48 inches © Gary Justis

Some of the subjects have a sentient quality. This takes me closer to realizing the human desire for creating life dissimilar to our symbolic order of things.