A bad way to start a review, but for as good a cause as can be expected: maybe the most curious and interesting objects start from places of banality and vulgarity, or just smell like them. “Object History Awareness,” an exhibition of new works by Sol Hashemi at 4Culture in Seattle, embodies this very dilemma. Cursory, shallow, and unwise glances would see the affectations of the young and whimsical, and make corresponding assumptions – he’s deifying mental illness, he’s a DIY copycat, all his work looks like someone else’s, or at least something else. This is simply not the case. Including photography and sculpture, displayed in various ways (flat on the floor, tucked in a crevice, on a poorly laid out corner, taped up or rolled up or ready to be played with), Sol’s work is reminiscent of recent trends in graphic design but the ideas behind it and the actual content of the pieces far surpasses all of his potential commercial references and indeed most if not all of his peers.
Perhaps the most obviously sexy piece, Studio Fires, 2010, is a collage or brick-collage of the ignition of nine objects/scenes by an unseen actor against the backdrop of what looks like a studio floor. Incorporating fire, a candid and harsh flash-based photography method, and references to the mythological “studio” in which magic is made and art is ruined, this piece seems to hit on many of the currently important styles in popular art (not pop art).
However, the items depicted (an apple, the moon, water, six others) speak not to pyromania or goofiness, but rather the sense of play and some kind of invisible web of connections, thus echoing perfectly the cable-strewn backdrop they are presented against. The studio is not a holy temple or hallowed place for measured and self-serious creation; it is a place for living, messing around, getting bored and seeing what you can do with what’s at hand, appreciating what’s at hand, and passing the time.
This technique of repeated gestures, or at least linked gestures feeds into everything in “Object History Awareness” including the artist himself. Even bizarre one-offs like Panda with Machine Gun, 2009, which is 100% what the title says it is, feel like part of a larger plan or schema. Liquids, 2009, which is another collection like Studio Fires; nine images superimposed on one larger image, runs the gamut from frat boy chic to DIY style recycling without a single one of the images feeling forced or affected in any way. In fact Sol’s greatest strength is how easy it all feels.
Whether he’s adding fins and doodads to rocks, taking pictures of himself as he hops around on chairs, stacking stools, or relaying internet-style visual puns, it all feels like a natural consequence of some greater level of connection or motion. There’s a current thread in philosophy that uses the sciences (math, physics, chemistry) as tools and metaphors for explaining entirely unscientific things about the world. The opposite of existential, objects don’t need to know how they interact with other objects or events or conditions, they’re simply always doing something.
Always playing, always passing time, always in contact or out of it. This is how Sol’s art feels – it is proof that a piece of art bent or folded or creased or left to lie has just as much relation to the space it is in and the people who see it and the currents of air that pass over it and to everything within and without. If you know better, or get bumped just right, you’ll literally feel the web – the things you can do that he’s done, the things that he’s done so you don’t have to, the things that his creations (are they even his?) are doing, and the entirely unrelated clashes of conditions and events and objects on the street, in the gallery, stacked in the studio.