Sunday, June 20, 2010

A wheel within a wheel a-turnin'

"...Hawkinson's other favorite medium, organic detritus (as in fingernails, hair, eggs, chickens, ritual conifers, etc.), is front and center as you enter his Blum & Poe solo debut: an utterly convincing pedestal-mounted mummy hand is revealed, on closer inspection, to be constructed from dried apple cores and banana peels.

The industrial jetsam's there too, in the form of a turquoise scarab ring made from a twist-tie and plastic bread-bag tabs, setting up a nice dichotomy between organic and artificial, equating the ancient hardwired lust for bling with the cancerous proliferation of plastic goods we refer to as a "standard of living." The slapstick pratfall and mellow-yellow connotations of Apples and Bananas (2010) are probably coincidental, but all great art has a tendency to pull unexpected (and often unintended) meanings into its orbit. It's an inspired entrée to the current world of Tim Hawkinson.

Though ancient and severed, the mummy hand embodies one of Hawkinson's most prevalent anatomical motifs, the tool by which the artist's visions are made material, and — as we know from the outsize digits of the cortical homunculus ( — one of the most information-dense sensory windows in the human body. Like most of Hawkinson's work, it embeds philosophically charged symbolism within a structure of exaggerated corporeal self-consciousness; in this case a hoax archaeological artifact aesthetically assembled from fragments of garbage, but probably more valuable than the real thing — because of the presence of the artist's hand.

Much of Hawkinson's art has explored the intricacies and paradoxes of the "handmade" — and this exhibit is no exception. One of the twin centerpieces of the show is a creepy, crafty, cosmic animatronic goddess figure titled Orrery (2010) — which is the word for those olde clockwork models of the solar system. A giant grandmotherly figure made from plastic grocery bags and wearing an op-art print dress — Akiyoshi Kitaoka's "Rotating Snakes" peripheral drift illusion, as if you didn't know — is seated behind a spinning wheel built entirely from clear-plastic water bottles. Her head spins, her ears spin, her eyes spin, her topknot spins. Her hands spin and her spinning wheel spins. She sits at the center of a series of concentric circular rings — together resembling a braided rug, with the braiding suggested by the photographically printed pattern of a bicycle track in sand — each of which spins independently at a different rate. That's some heavy rotation.

Its co-centerpiece is loopy as well. "A giant sperm-candle," commented a friend at the opening, "not like those regular sperm-candles." Indeed. Like "regular sperm-candles," Hawkinson's work manifests conceptual categories that seem to have never existed before ... yet seem self-evident in retrospect. An enormous 3-D wood-and-foam blowup of a burning, drip-laden white candle — one of those wide ones that ladies put on the edge of their bathtubs to set the mood — Candle (2010) pushes the artist's theme-park affinities to 11, with cascades of molten flowing tallow exposed, via a tiny backstage door, as illusionistic motorized scrolls. Less evident is the fact that the "drips" are cast from the artist's heels and toes, and as they make their continual rounds produce a gently rhythmical sound track easily lost in a crowd. The memento mori is tempered by the patter of tiny feet. Not to mention a "Playboy at Night" cartoon eroticism amplified into a monumental artifice worthy of Disneyland — and a humor-saturated psychosocial perversity straight outta Duchampton."

Read the rest of A Play on Worlds: Tim Hawkinson's latest spin here.

Images: Apples and Bananas; Orrery; Candle (all 2010)

No comments: