Archive for the 'Amanda Hughen' Category

Response and Recovery

Dividing the room nearly in half, a huge crimson bird stretches out wings made of bank notes. Faces peer out, stippled portraits of authority on what’s left of the currency, which has been trimmed into smaller birds that make up the whole. Streamers of red thread run from the top of the sculpture to the floor, where the spools rest.
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All of the works at Toomey Tourell’s show in transit display this readily apparent playfulness. From the hallway outside of the gallery the blinding yellow of a lifejacket and a lace-thin arm of veins call out to be examined further. When you do, you’re struck by the morbidity of the subject matter, which still later reveals itself to be, in actuality, the work of an artist grappling with tragedy: grappling with it, ruminating upon it, sneering at its absurdity and plundering it to create beauty where it seemingly has no business being found.
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The starting point for Lyndi Sales work in the exhibit is a plane crash that took the lives of all 159 passengers, including her father’s. Flight 295 proved not just an unfortunate accident: suspicions linger that the disaster was assured by the existence of contraband materials being smuggled into what was then still apartheid-era South Africa.

response2bBut what finds its way to the gallery walls? The aforementioned life vest, trimmed like a stencil to reveal the shape of lungs. There are heads of coral and blooms of bronchioles, either of which could be flipped to represent the other. Travel safety cards have been sliced into ribbons of airplane trajectories, as if vapor trails left tangible residue like a spider’s web to be delicately preserved (also reminding me of Amanda Hughen and Jennifer Starkweather’s Airport Project series). The connections are almost dreamlike associations, if sharp edged. Even after the sad origin of the works is revealed, the playfulness remains.

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I/O

Artists Amanda Hughen and Jennifer Starkweather have taken the “unique forms and patterns derived from constructed systems and natural movements around a specific locus” to inform their work currently showing at Electric Works, The Airport Project.
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Taking as their starting point seven airports, Hughen and Starkweather set to work incorporating vast amounts of data as dutifully as any machine, describing the arcs of departing planes in long bead-like strings that radiate outward from a common origin. The patterns that emerge, of spirals and spokes, are painstakingly applied chains of tiny dabs and splashes of paint. The abstraction of human movement en masse takes the form of willowy branches and fireworks. I was reminded of the hidden beauty found unexpectedly in mechanically captured images tracking patterns of movement over time, like the famous image of particles in CERN’s bubble chamber. There is also the suggestion of wood grain in patterns delicately rendered in graphite and ink in several of the pieces (growth being another kind of change and movement over time, if a subtle one).
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There are elements here that are built out of the visual language of images created and generated mechanically: the aerial photograph, the displays of air traffic controllers, the war room computer models of parabolic trajectories (real and imagined for the big screen). Yet the works themselves are in no ways direct copies of any of these things, rather, the result of a meticulous process and collaboration. They are fascinating to look at simply as compositions: the muted grayscale of concrete highways overlaid with the strings of dots and dashes. Then there are further elements that could only be possible in a work of art: the fact that the works shuttled back and forth between the artists as they evolved piecemeal nicely underscores the patterns of human movement represented in the paintings. Whereas there is often the anxiety that new technologies will render some traditional form of art obsolete, art seems particularly adept at gobbling them up as they come and regurgitating them: the medium emerges strengthened rather than weakened. Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase is a famous example of a work of art that is abetted and inspired by technology but not beholden to it. The works in Hughen and Starkweather’s series rescue abstraction designed with utility in mind and draw it back into the realm of aesthetics where the human element is restored.


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