Rhys Hecox, Between Here and Our Destination
June 23 - July 30
New York, NY
By NICOLE KAACK, JUL. 2016
Step one. Stretched across the front window, a white cloth waves and ripples in the gentle eddies and flows of the gallery’s internal currents. Barely perceptible images flit across its surface, their colors faded by the bright natural light shining through the front window. Although compromised by its context, this light, wavering iteration of "Yet Love Was There, Half-Understood, Never Quite Finished" (2016) serves as an apt introduction to the work of filmmaker Rhys Hecox. Between Here and Our Destination, Hecox’s first solo exhibition in New York, plays on the mediation of an image in transformation both materially and psychologically.
Step two. Diffused on its northern border by the gentle glow emanating from the gallery entrance, "Nature" (2016) brings us pacific, unpopulated scenes on the titular theme. floating from the steep, foliaged teeth of a foggy mountaintop to a dew-soaked morning on a stony wall, this short film follows an essentialization of the natural to locations that feel impossibly distant from the metal and concrete maze of New York. In the cool stillness of the gallery — so markedly different from the humid bustle that persists on the other side of a thin glass door — I wish to be transported by these quiet, serene vistas. The world of heat and motion cannot help but assert itself in a radiance that dims the possibilities of these alternate worlds. We are left, helplessly trapped between one place and another, abandoned where we started, yearning for this final destination.
Step three. I look into a mirror. Step four. Not a mirror but the reflective glass of a frame placed on the wall opposite "Nature." In this surface — as in my mind where the images still lap at the edges of my consciousness — I can still see the steady pace of idyllic shots. (There is the water again, the misty morning.) The picture behind is so dark that it takes me a moment to find it against the glare of reflected light. Straining against these psychic and visual obstructions, I can make out the shape of an unilluminated streetlight against a twilight sky. To the left, the same streetlight, still dark. In total, "Against the Sky" (2016) comprises twenty-five film stills. In stages, we watch the onset of dusk and, partway through the sequence, the streetlight illuminates. The remaining images show the light grow in strength as night settles in.
Step five. Before I have followed this progression into the recesses of the gallery, my attention is drawn to "Hole" (2015), a video projected onto a patch of floor surrounded by smooth stones. The slim, supple bodies of fish swim through this portal-like apparition above a green field of upwelling sediment. The shot changes: a white petal drifts aimlessly in a shallow flow of muddy water. Then, a bee nuzzles the wind-tousled petals of a rosily blossoming flower. In shots that follow like a train of thought, we follow water through a stream of transformations: from snow to ice to water; from rain to snowfall to ice. Sometimes these associations are physical, in relation to the water, other times they are visual, in closer association to the quality of Hecox’s filmography. Mirage-like in the shimmering pool of the projection, shots proceed through abrupt alterations in scale and orientation, all of which demonstrate a sensitivity to the perspective of the object being captured; in a shot taken directly perpendicular to the ground, we watch snow fall and accumulate on a city sidewalk. The rocks that surround this projection heighten our sense that we look into the depths of a strangely animated pool, while also pursuing the idea of transformation as they exist in almost mocking relation to the concrete floor upon which they rest. Can there be kinship between rocky crags and the cement of city streets?
Step six. Returning to the photo series and following it down the gallery’s hallway, I encounter a jarring, kinetic image on the far wall. Snowflakes dart before a confusion of tangled, crooked branches that haphazardly reach across a narrow forest creek. A spray of blood-red winter berries adorns the upper right corner of the image. Playing through a set of film stills on infinite loop, there is a glitchy, GIF-like quality to the motion of this work. Named for the broken, blood-spattered windshield that Hecox reads in this tangle of limbs and twigs, "The December When I Hit a Deer" (2016) is not meant to soothe. This almost monochrome scene comes as a momento mori, a reminder that these days of beauty and grace are not infinite but must all too soon come to a swift and timely end.
Through this collection of works, Hecox explores the differences between the image that occurs on the screen and the one that plays in the mind. Step one. We strain to see against the saturation of outside light. Step two. A scene begins to solidify, but remains partly dissipated and unfixed. Step three. The image, mistaken for a reflection. Step four. Now seen and understood, but caught in a progression. Step five. Now it is no longer the world that reconstructs the image, but the image that alters our interpretation of the space, calling us to engage physically and psychically to these visual and intellectual associations. Step six. In the final work, we are called upon to complete the cycle with a subtle shift of psychology, joining the artist to find the broken windshield in the natural environment. Although the conduit remains visual, our progress into the gallery gradually transports us from the materiality of New York streets to a meditative — though not always easeful — internal space. Walk further into the depths and deceptions of your own eyes and mind, Hecox seems to tell us. Nature is waiting. WM
Nicole Kaack is a freelance writer from Northern California. Currently based in Harlem, New York, she is a contributing author to Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and Art Critical.view all articles from this author