California-based "art cowboy" Barry Schwartz develops and performs with his large scale electro-mechanical structures since 1986. In those, he exposes and demonstrates natural phenomena (such as electrical discharges or the behavior of metal under the influence of external factors such as cold or heat). Additionally, he uses electronic media, video and audio, in real time processes, which he can steer mechanically or manually.
Schwartz's work incorporates metal, mechanics, computer controlled hardware, chemically reactive agents, high-voltage electricity, and live video feeds. Reclaimed technological refuse, electrified transit wires, telephone poles, an electrical tower removed from the landscape, and use of pre-existing structures, are employed in the fabrication of his artwork. Past installations have featured electrically charged piano strings attached to high voltage utility tower structures. During the installation and performance, Schwartz plays the strings coaxing arcs of electricity to dance between his fingers. Creating an auto-electronic environment, Schwartz stands in fountains and waterfalls of non-conductive fluid manipulating various mechanical devices. Additionally, the components generate an audible environment through various types of audio-transducers and amplification. Some of the mechanized elements are semi-automated and then enhanced and manipulated by Schwartz in performance. Schwartz invariably probes the nexus and relationships among the electrical, mechanical, aural, visual, and theatrical systems at work in the elements that comprise his artwork. He combines materials and concepts from various fields of study which when reexamined in the context of his design, bring about something entirely new. The components, while impressive in their physical size, originality, and sublime aesthetic, explore the fine line which exists in the physical and philosophical tension between science and art.
Schwartz exhibits worldwide, at V2_ with Optic Nerve (1990), Static Transit / Optic Nerves (1991) and during the San Francisco Festival Videos (1992). He lectures in various countries, such as at The Chicago Art Institute and the Rotterdam Academy of Art. Schwartz received international exposure and critical acclaim in publications such as the World Art magazine, Art News, and Mondo 2000. He was the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner merit grant for 1998.