Usually, exhibitions organized around a technique or medium rather than a concept tend to come off as crafty rather than curated—the whole enterprise tends to knock ideas a notch (or two, or three) below form. But fetish craft revivalism and the weird, zeitgeisty impulse to BRAND BRAND BRAND make the consumption of technique and material a somewhat reluctant political activity, imbued with any and as much concept as you like.
Some people relish this. They think of thrift-store shopping as a form of eco-activism, and take pains to buy things made from other things that normally would not be used to make those things: compostable flatware made from potatoes, “plastic” bags made from corn, totes that advertise their former life as water bottles (sidenote: we can tell). More than anything, the desire is for objects that tell a story, and more tellingly, this desire might hint at some unsettling link between self-actualization and choosing where one’s dollars go.
The exhibition Flection at Hedge Gallery is all about examining and repurposing the representation of folds, that litmus test of artistic ability just a hair above the “Draw Me!” pirate turtle, flourish of the Italian masters, and bane of every entry-level art class I’ve attempted. Where other students showcased their perfectly recognizable cones and spheres and piles of muslin, my “realistic” sketches defied gravity, proportion, and reason itself.
The pieces in Flection say fuck a fold: interested only in how its form can (literally) deepen their abstraction, obfuscating its role as a totem of realism. The idea for the show spawned from a detail of Ruth Laskey’s 2011 Twill Series; a hand-dyed, hand-woven square of linen whose weave and weft suggest a depiction of folded cloth within the linen itself. It’s a deceptively humble-looking echo of Pae White’s 2009 Smoke Knows tapestry, and a fairly representative example of the tautology of the pieces.
They also represent the height of craft worship. The question of how well the works are made is moot, because they’re about craft rather than of it. Hedge is first and foremost a design gallery, a purveyor of usually more straightforward objects for the home (seating, lighting, mirrors, etc. from a roster of notable artist-designers from around the world). Thus, the space had me thinking about function in a more direct and probably uncharitable way than I normally would when confronted with art of this type.
Anna Sew Hoy, TISSUE DISPENSING (DOUBLE), 2012, fired stoneware and powder coated steel, h 52.75” x w/l 19” x d 12”, Courtesy of the artist and Romer Young Gallery
Anna Sew Hoy’s clever Tissue Dispensing pieces from 2012 echo the folds of a rock formation while offering the viewer actual folds of tissue paper. I asked if I could take a tissue. I almost wanted to be denied. But alack, I am welcome to take one. I folded it and placed it in my purse, utterly confused as to whether this is art or simply really expensive tissue dispensers, but still aware of the silly poetry in the piece’s gracious readiness to accept my humble discharge. Michael DeLucia’s carved plywood suggestion of a cube has the throbbing sensory sensation of an Irwin installation, but with the rough-hewn patina of new-artisanal handicraft. The artist scored into the darkly shellacked plywood to expose the brighter underlayer, which is what actually gives the piece its illusion of three-dimensionality. “Subtraction giving the sensation of addition,” I can hear a future collector reciting with pride to a houseguest.
Of course, the impulse to perceive a readily articulated concept as a signifier of luxury, and art as such as luxury goods, is the lackadaisical, bargain-basement Marxism of a bitter Ikea shopper. At the very least, it’s unproductive, because everything aside, there is something very lovely and even modest about these works. Like craft worship without the nostalgia, or material fetish without sexual undertone. I especially appreciated Liam Everett’s stained linens from 2011 and 2012, which are not stretched like canvas, but hang loosely, falling over their frames like a lived-in dress on a body; ready to slip off at any moment, like the filmy gauze of an unexamined prejudice.
—Christina Catherine Martinez
(Image on top: Clare Rojas, UNTITLED (CR 12011), 2011, hand - dyed and handwoven linen h 50” x w/l 40”; Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim)