Before the advent of the internet, one never would have thought that much of the art world would experience art without seeing it in person. Hans & Gieves’ latest show, “Cross-Reference” at Like the Spice Gallery fits into this traditional pre-digital mind frame. The mixed media collaborations are betrayed by each row of pixels, their sumptuous texture of paint on photographic paper only truly digestible with the naked eye.
Hans & Gieves create their collaborations across state lines. Gieves Anderson, the photographer, lives in Brooklyn, while the painting arm of the duo is Hans Schmitt-Matzen, who resides down south in Nashville. Together, the pair form a synchronicity that does not breathe collaboration, but as if they were sharing a brain. Hans’ heavy and textured brushstrokes pick up where Gieves’ photographic form leaves off, breathing life into the two-dimensional forms. Their harmonization is almost uncanny, and would be completely believable to be from a singular artist.
"Cross-Reference," which echoes the artists’ living/working situation, takes inspiration from the stoic institutions of the library -- which also evokes the modern role of the internet as a replacement research source. For Hans & Gieves, the library symbolizes a temple of knowledge, but the pair treat it instead as a reference of color and form. Gieves’ photographs treat the rows of books and angles of well-worn wood shelving as if a Rothko color field, blurring their function of volumes of facts into simple form. Hans’ treatment of finely layered paint continues the nostalgic color palette, with its recognizable hues of deep browns, oranges and maroon, evoking days spent in libraries during childhood. Hans' painting brings the books’ edges, rough woodgrain and bricks of the library interiors into the third dimension with thick layers of colored line that are at once perfectly straight and geometric, but also static and globby, creating a balance in itself of controlled chaos.
Hans & Gieves, CROSS-REFERENCE #4, Oil on C print, 37x20 in; Courtesy of Hans & Gieves and Like The Spice Gallery
"Cross-Reference" is particularly digestible and relatable to children of the 1980s, who spent their formative years using card catalogs and encyclopedias, only to lose these tangible objects to the realm of Google and Wikipedia. The examination of each of Hans & Gieves' pieces in this show is cross-referenced with our own memories of the now antediluvian thought of the library. Hans & Gieves gives the institution of the library one more reign over its digital predecessor, by creating a body of work that can only be truly experienced in its full glory face to face.
(Image on top right: Hans & Gieves, CROSS-REFERENCE #5, Oil on C print, 37x28in; Courtesy of Hans & Gieves and Like The Spice Gallery)