The Black Wazoo

Black Wazoo Head detail
“Hope” is the thing with feathers   
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops—at all

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Emily Dickenson 1861

The Black Wazoo senses light, sound and moving temperature gradients such as those caused by the movement of warm bodies, usually peopler.  It responds with a behavioral repetoire of various LED patterns, movements, inflations, deflations, whirs, clicks and jiggles. It is over six feet high and weighs about thirty pounds. It was made in 1981 and uses TTL logic circuits. It resides in a bright room and looks out on a Henry Moore sculpture by the pool. The Black Wazoo is surrounded by an amazing  collection of paintings of postwar Abstract Expressionism, with work by Mark Rothko, Franz Kline,  Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning and others. The collector has recently begun collecting contemporary California artists like Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn and Billy Al Bengston.  The few who've seen his relatively small and carefull collection praise its rigor and intellectual purity.
 In 1982, when I delivered this sculpture, I asked the collector what he did for a living.  He said, "I'm a community developer."  I said, "Oh, you bring people together to improve their situation and the community?"  He said, "Uh, not quite.  I buy a lot of land and then build a city in it."

Detail of embedded circuit board and LEDs.

The very first Wazoo is the Grand Wazoo whose title was inspired by the late great Frank Zappa.


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