"My first hand is a sewing hand. A line of thread drawn up and down through cloth influences how I think about the confluence and rhythms of space and time. The edition of ciliary began with the extension of a single line. Drawn, sewn or written, a line contains all the attention present in its moment of making, the rhythms of breath and body, the weather of hesitations and the stutter of the hand orbiting in the body’s immediate periphery. Folded, cut or accreted, the line’s incessant horizontality returns to itself and takes a circular form. It is simple work; it requires the body to be slow.
For me, the circle of the hand making is the first eye. It is the empty center in the tower, the clearing in the forest, where with the fundaments of cloth and paper and line we weave and re-weave unending relations." - Ann Hamilton
Robischon Gallery is pleased to present its third showing and second solo exhibition for internationally recognized, American artist Ann Hamilton. Known for her large-scale multi-media installations, Hamilton’s sensory driven and deeply poetic work often merges the visual with both performance and sound-based expressions. Working in uniquely innovative ways, the artist transforms the traditional mediums of printmaking, photography, video, sculpture and textile work, either by process or stance. As a recognized McArthur Foundation Fellow, Hamilton’s genius brings with it a distinguished sense of the experimental as she approaches her on-going themes of “the body” and “being” with work that contains wide-ranging conceptual underpinnings.
The current exhibition dramatically features select large and small scale works from six different series produced over many years including “ciliary,” “visite,” “voce,” “body objects” and more. Many of the works are showcased on the award winning PBS television series and publication, art:21, which continues to distinguish Ann Hamilton as a groundbreaking and thought- provoking artist. In specific to “Selected Works,” regarding the “ciliary” series, the magazine states that it represents “a culmination of Hamilton’s decade-long collaborative relationship with Gemini G.E.L. and marks a new level of achievement in her work with printmaking. With a diameter of nearly five feet, each ciliary is a wall-mounted object of a human scale that yet lends a sense of quiet magnitude to the space it occupies. Comprised of accordion-folded lithographs that compress bands of meandering lines of varying intensity, each is punctuated by a burst of fabric in a coordinating color at the center. The form is at once familiar and mysterious, bringing to mind numerous associations, both natural and man-made: the cross-section of an immense tree, a dancer’s unfurled skirt, a folded fan, an eye, a seventeenth-century Dutch collar, as well. These references spring naturally from the circular structure – a response Hamilton purposefully elicits from the viewer- born of her meditations on the timelessness of this shape and its symbolism across time and cultures.”
Exhibited nearby are Hamilton’s “visite” print series. Based on photographs from 19thC albumen prints the size of a calling card – cartes de visite – the artist re-photographed the faces with a miniature hand-held surveillance camera affixed to her finger. This imagery manifested as the dominant element in “visite,” a layered lithographed series with its chine colléd signature “O” and a wide band of richly-colored fabric on diaphanous Japanese paper. Each remarkable work in the series affirms the artist’s contemplative and yet, startling union of image and material.
Ann Hamilton’s voce series (referencing the artist’s larger work entitled voce: house of the mouth), was published by the artist and Robischon Gallery. The evocative images exemplify the artist’s embrace of such interconnected relationships within her own vocabulary, from her captured video stills to the enveloping voce projection and performance first shown in Kyoto, Japan. Emanating from five, individual spinning projectors, the voce video and subsequent still images of faces or feet were part of an elaborate performance which also included an assembled installation of tables – stacked atop with carefully folded ceremonial kimonos, illuminated by a single desk lamp aside a vintage radio - all sheathed in diaphanous, silk organza. The site's large two- gallery spaces offered the opportunity for simultaneously paired performances - two languages and two species (human voice and songbird) creating thresholds of adjacency in contrast. In Hamilton’s artistic vocabulary the piece was intended to merge a condition of opposites: full/empty; above/below; light/dark; still/quickened and weighted/weightlessness. The installation was further layered by an intriguing unique performance by visitors. Each was invited to vocally improvise along with the prompts of a teaching CD to join in with a cacophonous chorus of bird calls which were earlier recorded in Japan by Hamilton. The artist’s sense of the universal with a reverence toward the distinct language of each being and place was also represented in voce by the symbolic images of the ancestors as the abiding “voice of memory.” The piece in its entirety reflects this shared expression, the site from which each new generation makes its own stand as the various incarnations of voce aptly reveal the artist’s stratified and soulful stance.
The earliest works within the exhibition are Hamilton’s pivotal “body object” series, shown in the Viewing Room gallery. This series offers an historical look into the artist’s ingenious and multi-purpose conjunction of material and object as a sensory and psychological expression. By taking a singular element from a previous performance or installation and using it to become part of an editioned photographic series, the artist expanded her visual vocabulary to “fix an object within a particular moment in time.” For example, the prickly hide-like, toothpick suit which Hamilton created for her installation entitled, suitably positioned at Yale University, was worn for its performance variant at Franklin Furnace in New York (both in 1984), along with the duct work, flashlight and fish-lure suits – and continue on as image in Hamilton’s silver-print portraits. The duel calendar year assignment indicates both the year the photograph was taken followed by the year the edition was published such as 1984/2006. Also on view, are two additional C-print photographs from 1987, in the time it takes to fry a locust and the choice a salamander gave to Hobson, Hamilton questioned whether it was necessary for any audience to witness her performances and staged several installations strictly for the camera alone. However, like “body objects,” this work was a prelude to an installation entitled dissections… they said it was an experiment at Artists Space, New York and later at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1988. For this dynamic approach, writes Joan Simon for Ann Hamilton: An Inventory of Objects, “images juxtapose functional elements in dysfunctional relation” with titles intended to communicate a state of mind with which to view the photograph of the artist as she appears to walk on an electrical current toward a television.
These early works reflect Ann Hamilton as the artist of distinction she was soon to become. According to the preeminent installation artist Judy Pfaff, Hamilton’s Yale professor, Hamilton came to her artistic beginnings “fully formed.” Pfaff states, “Hamilton knew who she was and which language she wanted to explore.” Over the decades, this same self-knowledge and commitment are visible within “Selected Works” – offered as a glimpse into Hamilton’s larger, layered world.
Ann Hamilton studied textile design at the University of Kansas and received an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Art in 1985. Among her many honors, Hamilton has been the recipient of the Heinz Award, MacArthur Fellowship, United States Artists Fellowship, NEA Visual Arts Fellowship, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, and the Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. She represented the United States in the 1991 Sao Paulo Bienal, the 1999 Venice Biennale, and has exhibited extensively around the world. Her major museum installations include Park Avenue Armory (2013); The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis (2010); The Guggenheim Museum, New York (2009); Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, Japan (2006); La Maison Rouge Fondation de Antoine Galbert, Paris, France (2005); Historiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (2004); MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2003); The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2003, 1991); The Wanas Foundation, Knislinge, Sweden (2002); Akira Ikeda Gallery, Taura, Japan (2001); The Musee d'art Contemporain, Lyon, France (1997); The Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (1996); The Art Institute of Chicago (1995); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1994); The Tate Gallery, Liverpool (1994); Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1993); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1988).