Art review: ‘silver and rust’ at Nine Gallery

Linda Hutchins. silver and rust. silver wall drawing; 9'h x 15'w x 20'd. 2011.

Linda Hutchins. silver and rust. silver wall drawing; 9'h x 15'w x 20'd. 2011.

 

…the wall as a measure of the time it takes to speak, the hands as percussive…

Ethereal curtains. She calls them ribs. But any name is provisional, an approximation, a suggestion.

These are marks made by Linda Hutchins on the walls of Nine Gallery for the installation, silver and rust, on which she and poet Endi Hartigan have collaborated. When Hartigan and Hutchins met, Hutchins had begun experimenting with fingertip drawings, using nails on carbon-like paper to make scratch marks. And then came the thimbles. Here in Nine Gallery, ten silver thimbles tip each finger as she splays her hands at the ends of her upstretched, outstretched arms and makes marks, moving her hands up and down the wall in short strokes, always eight times; then she lifts her hands from the walls and moves them inward and down, replacing them on the wall and marking again.

The low-high sound of each mark-and-return times ten fingers is rhythmic and mezmerizing. Of course, I was lucky to be there, to hear. When you stand before these marks, you’ll have to imagine the silver scratchings. And this is as it should be, because these drawings are a record of a body in a space in time, the splay of Hutchins’ fingers, the height of her reach, the level of her heart which is at the foot of the valleys to which these swooping curtains dip.

And as they met, earlier this year, Hartigan was working on a suite of poems that, among other things she thinks of as an “incantation against nothingness, the calling into being what is not there,” in “the intermediate zone between the lyric and the world, the self and the voice, the white space and the image.” And so it was that the image spoke to the word and the word spoke to the image and silver and rust was called into being from the Nine Gallery’s white walls…but just barely. Some of the patterned drawings are so faint that you have to get close, very close, to see their thin lines. Hartigan’s sheaf of poems sits inside the door of the space, several pages hung on pins above. She’s been revising the poems throughout the course of the exhibition and rehanging select pages as Hutchins has added to the wall drawings, sometimes in response to Hartigan’s poems…the circular, flower-like forms elsewhere on the wall, for example, in direct response to Hartigan’s poem “Flowering Ribs.”

Elsewhere, Hutchins drawings truly do look like scratchings. This is what they sound like:

Thimbles.2

This is in case you missed the performance that artist and poet did, alternating between Hartigan reading and the sound and movement of Hutchins drawing. It can be no accident that a poem like Hartigan’s “Everything that is not a goldfish,” swoops and repeats rhythmically. It can be no accident that it speaks to this collaboration, to this set of drawings, to its own state situated as a poem in an art installation, to abstraction itself, abstractly and perfectly as only a poem could.

Everything that is not a goldfish
(excerpt)

Everything that is not a goldfish
Everything that is not a mustang
or a goldfish everything that is not a cloud

improved or a mustang or a person or a goldfish
improved Everything that is not a mustang
or a love or the molting improvement

Everything that is not everything improved
in a person become the molting of persons everything
that is still diminished in what it’s not be a mustang

Everything that is not the state of diminishment
become the state of a mustang everything
that is still a state of a mustang state itself

Everything incanted as a small curl
everything incanted forth glittering
Everything diminished and incanted….

 

And this is what is so rewarding about this installation: that the poem does not determine the drawing, that the drawing does not dictate the poem. Rather there are points at which they touch, and as Hutchins’ thimble-clad fingers touch the walls, something happens there. There is this silver membrane between word and image that remains intact, that filters the empirical, the obvious, through the sensitivities of two artists to create a productive ambiguous zone open to the viewer’s individual experience and imagination.

 

Linda Hutchins. silver and rust. silver wall drawing; 9'h x 15'w x 20'd. 2011.

Linda Hutchins. silver and rust. silver wall drawing; 9'h x 15'w x 20'd. 2011. detail.

 

Now come close, and look up. And you will see the glint of silver in the marks. And you might imagine as I did, a gilded space that had been created stroke by thimble stroke in a white box of a space. In looking up you will also see, running along the tops of the walls, excerpts from Hartigan’s “Whale Speech Elegy” which encapsulates the back and forth dance between drawing and poem: “…the wall as a measure of time it takes to speak, the hands as percussive….”


Closing reception and conversation with Barbara Tetenbaum:

Saturday, December 31, 11:00 am at Nine Gallery, 122 NW 8th Avenue
Related drawings on paper through Dec. 31 at Pulliam Gallery, 929 NW Flanders Street

 

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