Jessica Jackson Hutchins (b. 1971, Chicago) transforms life into art, creating sculptures and collages from everyday objects. With the addition of ceramic and papier-mâché, her family’s kitchen table and living room furniture, along with her favorite pieces of clothing and books, become works of art. A couch is no longer a couch, but a pedestal for sculpture. The rituals of quotidian use linger and infuse Hutchins’s work with charged sentiment. The tension between art and the stuff of life prompts us to think about her formal choices as well as her subject matter. Hutchins has said, “Transformation, evidence of work, accidents, the time contained in the humanity of the objects—all that stuff is crucial to get at what I’m trying to get at, which is ways of connecting to the world, ways of knowing ourselves through the things we encounter.”
This exhibition, Hutchins’s first solo presentation in a museum, showcases Symposion, a large sculpture whose title is the classical Greek word for “drinking party.” The attendees of a symposion shared not only wine, but food, sex, and, most importantly, speeches. Symposion marries exuberant abstract form with a shabby sofa. Hand-built ceramic pots nestle among the crevices of a gargantuan black papier-mâché form that haloes the peacock-blue couch. The bulbous form—both monstrous and sublime—recalls imagery as varied as the massive reclining nudes of English sculptor Henry Moore and ancient Greek pots decorated with drawings of revelers lounging drunkenly on chaises. This exhibition also includes several drawings of punctuation—commas, exclamation points, and question marks—created from lumpy paper pulp, paper coffee cups, and spray paint and watercolor. If the symposion was a place to deliver speeches, then the drawings offer another kind of arena. The fields of punctuation marks suggest a narrative, but one without discernible plot.