There and Back Again
Timothy Hutchings has a wide art practice — drawings, deceptive cardboard sculptures, sad and funny videos. Much of his work is deliberately ephemeral. Other more philosophical projects underline the ontological problem of art: does it count as art simply because an artist made it? Hutchings addressed this question when he filled one gallery with bright light and smoke machines. In his new exhibition at I-20, Hutchings has set aside the studied ephemerality of his earlier works and has made three series of permanent, collectible objects. These are not just any objects, but art that he himself would want for his own.
Hutchings operates under the directive of creating things that he finds desirable. This manifests as a mongrel mix of studiously diverted Minimalism and his takeaway from 1960s hipster kitsch, with an increasing decibel of technological mediation in the art making process.
In the Flat Paintings series, Hutchings uses stencils and an airbrush to create what he lightly terms as “a layman’s take on third-generation Minimalism, mixed with a bit of Atari box art and the graphic nature of 1970s van decals.” Here the perfectly flat airbrushed paint makes each image look and feel like a silkscreen print. No brushstrokes betray the human hand, but a dozen maker’s marks in each piece indicate human decisions and mistakes. However, a personal pricing scale rules. Different prices are based on Hutchings’ own evaluation of the creation process for each work, signaling his own enjoyment in the finished piece with higher prices.
The second series in the show are works with the moniker Non-Entheogenic Works. These emerge from a similar “If it feels good, do it!” method of art making. Simple, loose rules are used to make preliminary drawings which Hutchings then scans and converts them into vector instructions for a computer-controlled laser cutter. The process yields a large not-quite-precise replica of the drawing, cut from wood or acrylic. Minute scorches, smudges, and surface imperfections remain as Hutchings’ means of gently mocking his own desire for beauty. The title for the series comes from Hutchings’ desire to consume his own images for simple pleasure rather than as a tool to access a deeper state of consciousness.
The third and final series are Gift Wrap Collages. While the Flat Paintings are made from air propelled paint through stencils and the Non-Entheogenic Works are derived from a hand drawing with a computer guided laser, the mediation of technology is the most extreme yet the least obvious in this last series. Tiny arrangements of gift-wrapping paper made by hand are scanned and balloon into large “paintings” on paper using a digital printing method completely divorced from the action of the artist’s hand. The delightfully imperfect printed surface of the source material made gigantic brings us full-circle back to Hutchings’ light-hearted interest in understanding High Minimalism and in creating conditions under which his own rigorous work can be generated.
Timothy Hutchings received his MFA from the Yale University School of the Arts. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1974 and now lives and works in Brooklyn.
Recent projects include The Self-Illuminating Idea, part of the New Museum’s Festival of Ideas, Allegra LaViola Gallery, New York (2011); the Long Beach Museum of Art, California (2010); the Center for Creative Arts, St. Louis (2009); the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Staten Island (200); the Sydney College of Art, Australia (2008); and the Vienna Kunsthalle, Austria (2008). Group shows include Make Skateboards, I-20 (2011); Doomslangers, Allegra LaViola Gallery (2010); Next Level: Game Spaces Beyond the Screen, FACT, Liverpool, UK, and The Netherlands, Media Art Institute, Denmark; Loophole to the Universe, curated by Ivan Vosecky, Divus Unit 30, London (2008); Trunk Selects, Färgfabriken, Stockholm; Rom fur Kunst og Arkitektur, Oslo; Sundsvall Kulturmagasin, Sundsvall, Sweden; Accidental/Coincidental, Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, New York (2008: 25 Years Later, Art in General, New York (2007); The Big Nothing – Basekamp, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2007); The 1st Moscow Biennial (2005); Collection of the Associazione Artissima, curated by Elena Volpato, Turin, Italy. Centro Reina Sofia, Madrid (2003); The Pretendlings, curated by James Bewley, New Langton Arts, San Francisco (2003); Videodrome II, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2002); Ramallah Video Festival, curated by Emily Jacir, Ramallah, Palestine (2002); PLAYGROUND. The Standard Projection: 247, curated by Yvonne Force and Loren Mindak, The Standard, West Hollywood (2002); B Hotel, P.S.1. Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York (2001); Greater New York,P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (2000); and Some Young New Yorkers, Part I,P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (1999)