Stills from: Screens for Recalling the Blackout, 2008, High Definition DVD, 9 minutes 22 seconds
Stretch, Riiip, Plop, Splash, etc.: Alex Hubbard’s theatre of art making.
Alex Hubbard at Gallery C
team (gallery, inc.)
83 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
May 7 through June 20, 2009
My reaction to Alex Hubbard's work is usually one of pure enjoyment. This instinctive high is regularly followed by a creeping sensation of puzzlement, a slow and steady descent into a perplexity that no extended exposure to the work can help me get rid of.
Hubbard stages and documents performances that take place in his studio, the spectator’s point of view rigidly dictated by fixed shots. Moving over a flat surface, usually not bigger than the framed area and parallel to the camera lens, Hubbard spills, throws, splashes, punctures, burns, destroys and builds upon a surface that our eyes quickly convert from three to two dimensions. This conversion is what puzzles me the most. I know –I want to know– that what I am looking at is, in fact, performance: the artist (whose arms and/or body nonchalantly appear here and there) working on something in time and space, recognizable objects and physical processes. Nonetheless, somewhere in my mind the image of a flat surface of ever changing shapes and colors quickly overwhelms every attempt at a rational apprehension of the sensible data in front of me. I love Hubbard’s dynamic “painting” on both the formal and aesthetic level, and I find myself completely entangled in the reverberations of its intriguing conceptual implications.
Things got even more complicated with Hubbard’s recent works, presented at Gallery C (an independent space embedded in Team Gallery) from May 7th to June 20th, 2009. Shown on a freestanding vertical-flatscreen-on-plinth, the video Weekend Pass features a cautiously moving and –as usual– barely visible Hubbard circling another plinth, on which various materials are stacked, burned, glued, crashed. The artist’s further exploration of the sculptural side of his own technique leads to an exhilarating extension of its possibilities. Watching Weekend Pass (2009) and Screens for Recalling the Black Out (2009), a video projected in the adjacent darkroom, reality and performative action once again slowly morph into an oddly painterly, deceitfully tangible (yet dynamic) flat plane.
Stills from: Weekend Pass, 2009, High Definition DVD, 8 minutes 48 seconds
Two large untitled canvases flanking Weekend Pass, almost facing each other, feature a slightly confusing mix of silkscreen and painting and resemble close ups of transitional still frames of any of the artist’s videos. Their size, support, technique, palette, composition and mood are remarkably similar. Receiving the visitors as they step down the narrow ladder that leads to Gallery C these two images embrace them in an ambiguous zone where everything is nothing, past is present and effects have no apparent cause. A perfect, if slightly soft-spoken, introduction to the Slash, Rip, Spill and Burn of the videos.
The wider angle and increased size of the props and contraptions used in Screens for Recalling the Black Out brings the performative aspect of the work as well as the significance of the artist’s physical presence back to our attention. Shot in full-figure and finally physiognomically recognizable, Hubbard is now impossible to ignore. He has always been somewhere around the works, his arms moving quickly over or around the various working areas, but now he IS there. He does the trick for us to see that there’s no trick and, most of all, that that’s never been the point of his work.
Marco Antonini is a New York based independent curator and writer. He has collaborated with some of the most reputable organizations in New York, including ISCP, Elizabeth Foundation, LMCC, ISE Foundation, Japan Society, Triangle Arts and the Dumbo Arts Center.
A freelance educator/lecturer at MoMA, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, MoMA PS1 and 3rdWard Design Center, his articles, essays and interviews have been published on Flash Art International, Cura, Whitehot, Museo, BMM, Contemporary, AroundPhotography, Arte&Critica and NYArts. He has lectured on various topics for the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice), Japan Society, ISE Foundation, City College of New York/CUNY and the Rhode Island School of Design.