It has been both a curse and a blessing for Jim Hodges that his work has almost always been discussed in relation to Andy Warhol. The parallels are clear and demonstrable but the relationship is one of influence rather than contemporaneousness. The show at the Camden Arts Centre breaks this mold and frames Hodges in relation to his late friend and contemporary, Felix Gonzalez Torres. Torres had shown in the same galleries at the Camden Arts Centre in 2000 and the installation of Hodges' work partially ghosts the previous position of the Torres works in that show.
Like Torres, Hodges is a master of simple gestures. The works are all formally reduced, relying on folding, repetition and placement for their organisation – a bunch of flowers, composed by folding each page of a magazine over, a sheet of gold leafed paper, folded, unfolded and framed, a selection of various fake flowers pinned to the wall in the shape of the USA. Although minimal in form, the works are deeply imbued with a sensitivity and melancholy. There is directness to the symbolism within the work – flowers are pretty, chains are restrictive, gold is beautiful. But what is it about this directness, what enables it to evade crassness and literalism? According to Hodges,“colour for me is the purest form of expression, the purest abstract reality”. I would suggest that Hodges works on two levels – on the one hand colour is colour, and patterns are patterns, what you see is what you get. But on the other hand colour is Yves Kline, and pattern is Warhol camouflage and everything is influence. It is exactly this double-speak which is present in the large monochrome wall painting which dominates the show. It is at once a piece about Warhol but also retains the physical effect of any expansive colourfield painting.
Looming behind the citations of Torres and Warhol lays a connection to Lucio Fontana. Fontana occupied the intersection between the beautifully tender and the determinedly conceptual in a manner which Hodges has managed to emulate. This intersection reveals an important point about all conceptual art: the “idea-object” on which all conceptual art depends is in many ways a fragile, tender and delicate thing; a thing as fragile and vulnerable as Fontana’s golden egg.
It would be wrong however to reduce Hodges to the product of a system of influences – Fontana to Kline to Warhol to Torres. His work is as broad as it is deep and draws upon a strongly meditative studio practice - “I move [artistically] very slowly” says Hodges “It’s usually material first. I sit with the material for a long time”.
There is a palpable sense of this time taken over decision-making in the work at the Camden Arts Centre, a sense of commitment to materiality. Despite the layered references which thread through each work, everything is appreciable in and of itself. The visitor to the show will get much from it’s filigree and delicate materiality. At the end of it all, as Hodges would no doubt affirm, black paint is a pure expression, gold leaf is an intense experience and flowers, well… flowers are pretty.
-- Mike Tuck
All images courtesy the Camden Arts Centre
Images: Jim Hodges, Arranged, 1996, Folded book with metal paper clips, 33 x 16.5 x 26 cm, Heidi L. Steiger; Jim Hodges, Changing things, 1997, Silk, plastic, wire and pins (342 parts), 193 x 376 cm, Dallas Museum of Art, Mary Margaret Munson Wilcox Fund and gift of Catherine and Will Rose, Howard Rachofsky, Christopher Drew and Alexandra May, and Martin Posner and Robyn Menter-Posner.
Jim Hodges Camden Arts Centre 11 June – 05 September 2010