Saturday, May 12, 2012

Just Seen and Dashed Off: Duncan Hewitt at ICON

There are only a few more days left to see Duncan Hewitt’s show of new sculptures at ICON Contemporary Art in Brunswick. Hewitt is an artist whose work continues to puzzle me, in a good way though. Carving out of wood ordinary objects whose new materiality appears awkward and undermines their original essence, the sculptures gain a metaphorical depth that is sometimes challenging to confront.

At ICON Hewitt is showing several thinly carved sculptures based on the shape of car windshields. They are displayed on old, rather mundane chairs. The obvious interpretation sees the chairs as driver’s seats and the windshields as screens through which we see much of our surroundings, shielded from direct contact. In fact several of the sculptures have the silhouettes of islands or lakes painted on them. As Duane Paluska pointed out to me, these specific locales carry autobiographical and deeply emotional weight for the artist. Paluska also sees the irregularly shaped, black forms that rest on chairs as well as pietas, and I have to agree with him on that point. They too are geographical outlines, but they also evoke the outlines traced around a found body, definitely have bodily implications.

The windshields include marks of their making, of their being gouged out of wood, as if all insects that ever came to a sudden violent death there had left their mark, or as if every sight of significance, every event in our lives, had made an impression. This memorial function is crystallized in three small sculptures in the shape of rearview mirrors, made of wood and steel, my favorite pieces in the show. The metal surface is marred by blots and discolorations, those instances of life that remain with us when looking back, leaving indelible traces. These are intensely evocative and emotional pieces in spite of their unassuming form.

Two additional sculptures whose formal origin remains unknown to me, manage to function as memento mori, somehow reminding of automotive components as well as funerary urns. The show includes what is for me Hewitt’s most thought-provoking work yet, conceived from deep within and touching us in tender spots.

1 comment:

  1. Britta, this is some lovely and on point writing about Duncan's work. I am an admirer of his work and don't feel anyone has yet quite done his fine work justice. Thank you.