Alicia Eggert, “Everything You Are Looking For” (2012)
Alicia Eggert, “Everything You Are Looking For” (2012)

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“Present Perfect” is a witty piece, no question, a sculpture that’s ready for the art-fair floor. It’s a work by Alicia Eggert that consists of a MacBook Air, a copy of Microsoft Word, and a rock. The rock is sitting on top of the keyboard, depressing the letter Y, which repeats endlessly, page after scrolling page, a computer’s plaintive yowl. It’s easy to feel confident about “Present Perfect” because this formula has worked before: In 2008, for a piece called “g,” the British artist Jack Strange dropped a lead ball onto the G key of an iBook.

Eggert is several iterations too late to this idea—and several others—in “Everything You Are Looking For,” the artist’s solo exhibition at Artisphere. Eggert’s work about time and our perception of it hums at the Rosslyn art center. Perhaps no show has looked so good in Artisphere’s Terrace Gallery, which has never booked a show quite this flashy and contemporary-looking. Despite the inviting presentation, however, time and time again, Eggert’s pieces don’t quite make the mark.

“All the Time” is a typical sculpture for this show: a found clock with a mess of added clock hands. For “Eternity,” it’s a series of 30 clock hands that, twice a day, line up in a way to spell out “eternity.” Then there’s “Now,” a series of Arduino microcontrollers and motors that spin a series of clock hands so fast that they appear to spell out “Now” once a second. For some viewers, the simplicity of the gimmick may be irresistible. Others may see that Eggert doesn’t always stick the landing. The painted plywood box that houses the motors and microcontrollers of “Now” begs for a more manufactured feel.

Elsewhere, Eggert delivers on slick. “Everything You Are Looking For” is a 24-foot-long string of letters in neon tubes. Select letters light up while others stay dark, illuminating words in sequence. “Everything you are looking for is invisible,” it reveals. Yet Eggert’s artworks arrive so late in the long line of aphorisms and wordplay delivered in bright lights—think Jenny Holzer or Bruce Nauman or many, many others—that it’s hard to take Eggert’s works at more than face value.

And that’s the thing: Her work is good because her predecessors thought to take industrial materials or newfangled machines and apply them to sculpture. It’s a little like listening to Arcade Fire: Their work is good, but Bruce is the Boss, and there’s nothing in Arcade Fire or Eggert’s output that Springsteen or Nauman didn’t think of first.

Which is OK. It’s fine, and even topical lately, to walk in the footsteps of giants, to revive their methods in the hope of inspiring new ones. There’s nothing here that’s so charming or difficult as Tim Hawkinson’s work, nor is Eggert doing anything that’s as technologically innovative as the pieces that show at New York’s Bitforms gallery—many of them artists who also channel Nauman. Still, Eggert’s work may be the cleanest distillation of a certain stripe of sculpture—the high-tech one-liner, boosted by Arduino but concerned with universal experience. This is not a great offense. But for a show based on the perception of time, there’s not much in “Everything You Are Looking For” to linger over.