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The Whitney presents two decades of work by one of America's most singular and inventive sculptors in Tim Hawkinson, the artist's first major museum survey, opening at the Whitney Museum of American Art in February 2005. The show, organized by the Whitney and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art-where it will be seen after its New York presentation-follows Hawkinson's steady evolution as seen in his meticulously detailed drawings, minute constructions, inflated latex casts, and uncanny mechanical contraptions. (right: Tim Hawkinson, Emoter, 2002)
"Tim Hawkinson's fantastical works suggest the profound strangeness of life, matter, and time. Interweaving images of bodies and machines, at scales that vary from the monumental to the nearly microscopic, Hawkinson conjures a world that teeters on the cusp between the real and unreal," remarks exhibition curator Lawrence Rinder, adjunct curator at the Whitney and dean of graduate studies at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco. From his visually compelling miniature sculptures of birds and bird eggs entirely made from his own fingernail clippings, to his huge, sprawling mechanical wind instruments constructed of inflatable plastic tubes and ducts, Hawkinson's oeuvre is a meditation on nature, machines, the body and human consciousness.
Best known for his large-scale kinetic and sound-producing sculptures, Hawkinson has also created important works in photography, drawing, printmaking, and painting. Anticipating the do-it-yourself aesthetic that has recently become so ubiquitous, he has, since the late-1980s, been using found objects and handcrafted materials and machines to create idiosyncratic works that are intensely personal yet seemingly scientific in the rigorousness of their processes. Virtually all of his works are made with common or store-bought materials endowing his pieces with a mysterious sense of familiarity and accessibility. He brings to these familiar materials, however, a sense of inventiveness that inspires surprise, wonder, and even awe.
The central subject of Hawkinson's work is often his own body, which he inflates, measures, weighs, reflects, and animates. Rather than creating conventional self-portraits, Hawkinson uses his own physical form as a starting point for investigations into material, perception, and time. His analytical approach is often balanced by a suggestion of spirituality, as in Balloon Self-Portrait (1993) that consists of a life-size latex cast of the artist's body that has been inflated and hovers off the gallery floor like an apparition. In other works, though, Hawkinson reduces his 'self' to a simple machine effect, as in the kinetic sculpture, Signature (1993), which ceaselessly inscribes the artist's own signature.
Throughout his career, Hawkinson has been interested in varieties of pattern, texture, and form. His early monochrome paintings, for example, created distinctive patterns through the orientation of their brushstrokes while his more recent animated sound-sculpture, Drip (2002), creates complex percussive effects through a series of computer-controlled drips. His work also explores variations of texture; for example, he has used aluminum foil both to replicate an elephant's wrinkled skin and in another work to suggest the almost supernaturally smooth surface of a CD.
Hawkinson has created numerous sculptures that function as machines, many of which have the characteristics of robots or automatons. Other pieces serve to record time or create sounds. He has produced an astonishing variety of time-telling sculptures, often using unconventional materials, such as strands of hair caught in a hairbrush for the hands of a "clock." Spin Sink (1 Rev./100 Years) (1995) is a 23-foot long row of interlocking gears, the smallest of which is driven by a whirring toy motor which in turn drives each consecutively larger and more slowly turning gear up to the largest of all which rotates only once every 83 years. Several of his mechanical works function as idiosyncratic musical instruments, whistling, honking, and clacking according to the artist's own scores. From Feather (1997), a tiny feather fashioned from the artist's own hair, to a football-field-sized pipe organ, Überorgan (2000), Hawkinson's work combines humor and diligence to make the familiar territories of the body, machinery and time surprising and new.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Tim Hawkinson was born in San Francisco in 1960. He lives and works in Los Angeles. His one-artist exhibitions include shows at MASS MoCA and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington. While Hawkinson's work has appeared in numerous recent group exhibitions, including the 2002 Whitney Biennial, he has not had a comprehensive solo show since the 1996 exhibition, Humongolous: Sculpture and Other Works by Tim Hawkinson, organized by The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, which traveled to Akron Art Museum, Akron, Ohio (1996); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (1996); The Aronoff Center for the Arts, Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati (concurrent exhibition with The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, 199697); Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina (1997); and John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin (1997).
The exhibition catalogue is a thorough investigation of Hawkinson's work. With a lead essay by curator Lawrence Rinder, the catalogue will also include essays by Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Howard Fox, and art critic Doug Harvey, as well as a comprehensive chronology and bibliography. The artist's influences and historical context are considered as well as the many interlocking themes evident in his extensive oeuvre.
ORGANIZATION AND TOUR
This exhibition was co-organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Whitney adjunct curator Lawrence Rinder is the show's curator. Following its Whitney presentation, it will be seen at LACMA, from June 26 to September 25, 2005, where the installation is being coordinated by Howard N. Fox, Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, LACMA.
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