Kinetic Esthetic: Dannielle Tegeder

The artist inaugurates Hamilton College’s new Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art with a mural and motion machines

Fakontech: Golden Structured City with Machine Plan Universe and Method Angle Main Triangle Planet and Crystal Code, 2013, gouache, ink, colored pencil, graphite, and pastel on paper.


Within Dannielle Tegeder’s abstract drawings, paintings, mobiles, and installations are what look like highly kinetic machines. Tegeder points to one of these configurations in a drawing stuck to the wall of her Midtown Manhattan studio. “I always think about if you could pour a glass of water over the top of these systems, how would it work? What direction do things go?” she says. And so a jumble of slanted lines, folded planes, and little wheels coalesces into something harmonic—a “system.” The idea of harmony became literal in The Library of Abstract Sound (2009), which she showed at the now-shuttered Priska C. Juschka Fine Art. That installation included bookshelves lined with 160 framed drawings, each of which had been scanned and digitally translated—according to shapes and colors—into a sound piece. The audio compositions were played one by one in the gallery, as a video screen indicated which drawing the audience was “hearing.”

Now, Tegeder has reconstructed the Library for her first solo museum show, opening May 10 at Hamilton College’s new Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art in Clinton, New York. The exhibition spotlights Tegeder’s output over the past five years and includes a 40-foot-long, site-specific mural that “responds to the quality of light and contours of the architecture,” says Wellin director Tracy Adler. This, like Tegeder’s previous murals, reveals the guts behind the drywall—electrical wires, water pipes, and all—which the artist gleaned from blueprints.

Tegeder was born in Mahopac, New York, in 1971, the only child of a nurse mother and a steamfitter father. As a young girl, she liked to watch her dad make mechanical drawings of piping and ventilation systems for work, which are now echoed in her murals. She went to the State University of New York at Purchase for her B.F.A. and got her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (She’s presently an art professor at Lehman College in the Bronx.) In 2000, Tegeder moved to New York City and soon began to create grid-like wall works and models of underground “safe cities”in response to 9/11. Later, on long trips with her husband, artist Pablo Helguera, to his hometown of Mexico City, she started making spindly abstract mobiles and installations that shift in and out of three-dimensional space.

A few years ago, Tegeder taught herself animation while housebound with her newborn daughter. Using Photoshop and Flash, she’d separate individual elements from photos of her drawings and make the shapes dance and deconstruct to music. The Wellin show features several of these mini motion pictures. Tegeder’s animations are a natural evolution for her works, which always seem to want to move, even when they’re perfectly still.

Trent Morse is an associate editor of ARTnews.

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