The rain almost stopped on the opening night of the current 500X gallery exhibition. At least it didn’t dampen the young vibe that is so characteristic of galleries in Deep Ellum. The fact that both Scott Hilton and John Nicholas Hutchings are art teachers attracted so many students that the overhanging Bohemian atmosphere surely kept the GCB away.
The new photograph series by Scott Hilton are reproduction from the original wet collodion negatives. “On the Nature of Things” is to examine the interplay of text and texture. It reminds me of the current exhibition of Glenn Ligon’s mid-career retrospective at the Fort Worth Modern. Ligon’s text paintings, often gradually marred from coal dust, transform the act of reading into an undertaking that is both physically and intellectually demanding. Scott’s photographs, however, retain the sensual beauty intrinsic to the wet plate photograph. The visual patterns, thus, are more dominant than the intellectual perception. Scott explored the concept of textual and textural duality in a variety of subjects that suggest as far as the prehistoric period. While “SYN, See LIE” best demonstrates the idea of text being examined physically, Eric’s favorite is “Mare Transquilliatis”, a serene metaphor of moon topology. The reading of the perpetual shape of sediment engenders an intimacy that is helplessly remote.
Michael Francis’ mini retrospective show displays how the artist evolved his personal style through an embryonic idea of ten years ago. In 2002, Michael picked up a clipped image from some magazine that was surprisingly non-picturesque. Working with warm hue palette and near-monotone simplicity, he painted a snippet of the interior of an anonymous house with white cornice molding, and then faded the scene out through multi-layered round dots of varied light hues. He kept working on it for more than one year until when the surface texture (some dots were even cut out) and tonality create a subdued harmony between realities and abstract. The subtle variation of light dots projects a human condition, when being transformed from lethargy into deep recollection, upon something seemingly ordinary and common. The rest of the collection, out of that specific germination, responds a distinctive place, mood and transitory moments wit haunting silence. His newest series, such as “Safe Passage” and “Frankie’s Tunnel”, while still maintaining the monotonic succinctness, grow from that poetic personal essay style to embrace the ambiguity in narratives. The abstraction not only lies in his drawing ability with paint brush on a large scale, but also in his manipulation of focused and lost edges. The result, to me, is an eccentric private recollection that is too true to refuse to partake.
If the pictures downstairs speak of elegy of the past, the artworks upstairs carry a strong sense of presence. The installation works by John Nichols Hutchings convey an explosive and dark nature that seems imminent and inevitable. In “Plumb Line”, gold leaf was “brushed” over the plexiglass, under which the picture itself is inky black. Any viewer who stands in front of it will first see the reflection of himself, thus completing the content of the installation work. When Eric joked about how this artwork would be transferred to a private home since part of the gold leaf were burnished onto the gallery wall, the artist offered on-site installation, which is included in the price.
Ink, in fact, has been used extensively in Nick’s installation works throughout the gallery. “A Thin Veil” features a piece of vellum hanging on top of a tank of black ink. The projector, placed about 10 feet away, illuminates the architectural rhythm of the vellum. Through the faintly trembled reflection from the ink tank, one sees ever-changing nature of the artwork (A ceiling fan happens to be above the ink tank). As a piece of work that is mostly sculpture, it defies the gravity and solidity and embraces, instead, the paintingly effect of light and shade.
Although it does not sought for the engineered practice between tension and balance, like a mobile of Calder, it moves gently, like a lullaby.
Laura Doughtie’s ink drawings are composed of rectangular marks meticulously arranged with varied density and orientation. Through the relationship within perhaps thousands rectangles, they achieve an integrity that suggests forms being curved, folded, or crushed. By placing them on a piece of white paper and eliminating backdrop, she dissolves these shapes into a self-explanatory space with no particular beginning or end. They seem to be able to assume such intricate forms and grow infinitely out of finite human intervention. They are, arabesques, of machine ages.