Baltimore-based artist Chris Bathgate is a self-trained machinist. He utilizes handmade tools and automated CNC (computer numerical control) milling and drilling machines to create precisely-crafted elements that assemble into complex sculptures.
Machining is his method of artistic expression. He has spent more than fifteen years adapting metalworking machinery from salvaged and repurposed equipment. Bathgate’s aesthetic considerations stem from the very machines that he uses to create his sculptures. Each piece that he makes is informed by the one it is preceded by, and he modifies his machinery accordingly—not for improved practical function but for the aesthetic developments that can be produced.
Bathgate is unique in his formalist approach to precision machining as an art form. His entire body of work is an ongoing investigation into this concept. Process lies at the heart of his practice and it serves as the primary catalyst for his ideas. He evaluates his sculptures for form and visual composition in a continuous cycle of ideation, problem solving, fabrication, analysis, and revision, similar to systems engineering. Bathgate’s carefully composed technical diagrams are evidence of his gestaltist outlook in which the whole may be deconstructed into its elements.
Playing with the tension between aesthetic vs. utility, form vs. function, and industrial vs. handmade, Bathgate’s interdisciplinary work lies at the intersection of art, craft, and design. It serves as an example of how computer-mediated fabrication may bridge the divide between art, craft, and industrial production in the Digital Age.
This exhibition is curated by Ron Labaco and organized by Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences.