SOLOS Spotlight: Adam Hager – Delicate Machinery

by Evan Odoms, AAC Marketing Intern

Adam Hager, Mechanical Resonance, scale image

Adam Hager, Dream Machine, scale

If you’re a tactile person who happens to be attracted to shiny little objects, this SOLOS exhibition is for you. Adam Hager’s Mechanical Resonance welcomes you into our Smith Gallery with his array of intricate automobiles.

Mechanical Resonance, installation shot. photo by Dawn Whitmore

Mechanical Resonance, installation shot. photo by Dawn Whitmore

It takes every fiber in my being not to remove one of Hager’s sculptures from its shelf and start racing it around the gallery everyday!

Adam Hager, Mechanical Resonance, installation shot. photo by Dawn Whitmore

Mechanical Resonance, installation shot. photo by Dawn Whitmore

His installation is a series of juxtapositions starting with the playfulness of the work itself, which is obviously crafted with meticulous care and attention to detail, and then presented in a specific way conveying a sense of refined beauty.

Dream Machine, a motorcycle made of watch parts and other mechanical components, could probably be a vehicle for the super hero the Ant-man.

It’s very impressive to see a tiny object made of a number of even tinier objects. The manufacturing of the motorcycle took  35-40 hours and was the result of a lot of a lot of trial and error as well as a lot of concentration.

Mechanical Resonance, installation shot. photo by Dawn Whitmore

Mechanical Resonance, installation shot. photo by Dawn Whitmore

“The front wheel of the motorcycle alone has 4 independently spinning gears to make up the whole, and trying to make the front forks to hold the gears may have taken me 2 days alone,” Hager explained.

These installations do have you itching to grab, however, they follow the old gallery motto, “look but don’t touch.”

On the other hand, there is one piece that welcomes restless fingers. Tune is a nice juxtaposition between hard and soft. You look at it and expect the sound of engine, but it’s an unexpected discovery when the sound of chimes drift throughout the galleries.


Tune looks to be a lengthy process to make, evidenced by Hager’s video, which documents the process of setting it up for the show. The one above that we borrowed from his Instagram is only a brief clip. You can see this video in its entirety in the exhibition. 

Guests give Tune a spin at the opening reception in April. photo by Kate Ingram

Guests give Tune a spin at the opening reception in April. photo by Kate Ingram

To get anywhere near this point Hager explains that he spent “a solid 9 months of hard work from start to finish, and that was using every spare moment [he] had.”

What’s striking about Tune is the music that comes from it. Hager wanted the sound to be peaceful and serene.

Through a bit of experimentation with different chimes Hager decided on tuning forks “because of their parallel with the idea of the engine as well as their ability to be machined without losing their properties.”

He also notes that other chimes became dull when handled or touched which resulted in no sound at all. The rest of his process was manufacturing the right striking tool in in order to find the most effective way to hit the fork to produce the chime he wanted. Hager had to figure out the right combination of materials first so that the engine could perform the task.

“Generally, my process involves taking anything mechanical apart and learning how it works in a hands on fashion.  The same occurred with the engine. People asked me how I was going to make this piece happen, and all I could say was, “I won’t know until I get it apart and reassemble it.”

I made a little mechanical attacking spider 🕷 #clockspider #aCreativeDC #spiderattack #gearhead

A video posted by Adam Hager (@adamroberthager) on


Hager’s process is very hands on when designing his installations. He likes to fully understand what he’s working with and makes sure he can alter the components without losing the  “inherent properties, but at the same time, creating something entirely re-imagined.”

Hager’s work also manages to reveal the artistry of mechanics. He explains that he likes “to draw attention to the elegance of mechanics.” and has  always considered automotive construction an art form. He does a good job of balancing these two themes. It may be because many of his works have musical attributes. There is something that’s odd-fully peaceful about chiming car engine.

 “…my goal is to inspire fascination within the viewer with the finished object, and in turn, inspire their investigation into the original materials.”

Hager is no stranger to playing around with cars. You can probably guess where his passion for the automotive industry originated.

“From the time I was a kid playing with my hot wheels until now.  My career path when I was younger was going to be an automotive engineer.  Somewhere along the way, art took over and became my main drive.”

Some generalize or limit art to the basic visuals (drawing, painting, and photography) but really there is art in everything we see and hear, whether it’s the carpet  you’re walking on or the device you’re using to read this blog. It took a designer to create those initial concepts and maybe the next time you see a car, it’ll ignite something musical in you too.


Hager’s  Mechanical Resonance is currently on view in the Smith Gallery. If you would like to see and hear more of Hager’s musical mechanics check out “Plastic Smile” and “SuperTuff” (made from a car muffler, typewriter, and a xylophone) which shown on his website  www.AdamRobertHager.com.

 Our galleries are always free and open to the public Wednesday – Sunday, 12 pm – 5 pm. AAC is located at 3550 Wilson Blvd, across the street from the Virginia Square Metro. This is the last week of our Spring SOLOS, so don’t miss your chance to

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