October 26, 2010

Will Hutnick, “These Monsters” at Fishbowl Gallery

Review by Gail Victoria Braddock Quagliata

Unless the viewer completely lacks the powers of visual observation (and this has somehow gone unnoticed and granted said viewer full access to the Pratt community regardless), he or she has quite likely witnessed those vaguely menacing, softly undulating, beige and black forms holding court along the walls of the Fishbowl Gallery. Are these living? Are these some type of strange wall-dwelling kelp? Are these… Made of... tape? Quite appropriately titled, what lurks in the lounge is in fact, “These Monsters,” an installation by Pratt second year MFA candidate Will Hutnick.

Monsters rarely emerge randomly from within a vacuum; these, for example, evolved gradually from Hutnick’s own artistic background in painting, specifically in abstract expressionist painting. In his own words, “I will always be heavily indebted to Pollock and his drip paintings for their monumentality, expressiveness and abandonment of a traditional field of space. What really interests me is this accumulation of materials that is not ashamed to be utterly ridiculous and absurd, and the use of a common household object such as tape only seems to reinforce this absurdity.”

Where Hutnick steps past simply transgressing traditional conventions of painting or sculpture by selecting materials that would seem far from precious or even, say, expected (outside of the context of perhaps a crazed cubicle-dweller seeking sudden artistic solace in all that happens to be on hand), is in the inclusion of the irreversible gesture, the spontaneous moment made permanent by the very nature of the medium. Tape fused to tape is not easily altered if the form displeases the artist, and it is in the actual celebration of this process that the artist makes even more abstract his expression. Much of Hutnick’s recent work involves a discussion of the honest, immediate, immutable action, and one element that gives his work its compelling nature is the obvious amount of detailed mental and physical work involved in the lead up to that actual vaunted, breathless moment – the degree of consideration of materials and their potential collision within an environment (like gravity on tape-monsters, or unsupervised students on boredom meeting the aforementioned creation) is as plainly evident as the amount of labor leading to the final piece. Where the ultimate result appears quite organic and gestural, the forethought is undeniable.
This contrast, of the well-planned impulse, is merely one of many. Hutnick carefully frames the dichotomies presented by his monsters: they are simultaneously playful in form and title yet ominous in their looming, leering presence and irrefutably wasteful materiality; clearly referring the organic in shape but undeniably manufactured both in construct and medium; both sensuous and unspectacular all at once as each form clearly states its nature as a massive construction of undeniably humble constitution, each an improbably sexy tape-beast, in fact.

Hutnick tends to think of his work in general (and process as a whole), most of which are abstract acrylic paintings, as, “living, breathing entities to a certain extent: whether or not they are creatures, universes, beings, movements, or simply moments.” This installation humbly and unassumingly began life as drawings, extending into space with tape, at which point Hutnick noticed that quality of LIFE - “Pretty quickly I stopped drawing with tape because the material began to dictate its own form.” The tape, in essence, had decided it was a monster, and Hutnick was curious as to what it would do next if he would allow it to choose its own form.
As pieces inextricably imbued with his brand of curious, carefully thought-out spontaneity, “These Monsters” loom above the students lounging beneath them, and demand interaction, which, to an artist less interested in permanent-impermanence and impulse could be upsetting, if not frankly infuriating. Is it possible that which was made to devour will ultimately be devoured? This work seems at some level like an open-ended question begging for infinite answers.

If “These Monsters” chose not to devour you whole in the Fishbowl Gallery, other works can be found online at http://willhutnick.com/.

This exhibition is part of the Student Exhibition Spaces Program coordinated by the Center for Career and Professional Development at Pratt Institute.  All current students can submit work for inclusion in future exhibitions by emailing ccpdprograms@gmail.com for more information.

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