The first U.S. survey exhibition of artist Richard Hawkins (b. 1961)whose works are making a crucial contribution to contemporary artwill premiere at the Art Institute of Chicago
this fall. Richard Hawkins: Third Mind, on view October 22, 2010, through January 16, 2011, consists of more than 80 objects, including books, collages, drawings, paintings, and sculptures that span his twenty-year career. The exhibition is installed in two spaces in the museum: the Modern Wings Abbott Galleries (G182184) as well as the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries.
Since the early 1990s, Richard Hawkins has become one of the most important figures living and working in Los Angeles, first and foremost as an internationally recognized artist and also as curator, writer, and teacher. His work is emphatically diverse and resists easy classification. Hawkinss practice is intensely engaged with the histories of art and literature, from ancient Greece to the 19th century French Decadent movement, and with former teen pop idols Matt Dillon, Marky Mark Wahlberg, and GunsnRoses guitarist, Slash. His work draws on a wide range of inspirations including: the writings Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust, the painting of Gustave Moreau and Francis Picabia, as well as with the intricacies of Thai sex tourism and Native American assimilation.
Richard Hawkins: Third Mind covers Hawkinss production over two decades, highlighting the medium of collage as a primary focus of his expression. Hawkinss earliest collages consist of photos of film celebrities, male models, or porn stars, taken out of context and reframed into compositions that often tease out homoerotic admiration and desire. A series of altered books dating from the early 1990s, in addition to rubber mask and magazine clipping assemblages from 1991, will be shown together for the first time since their creation. All six of the original editioned prints from the Disembodied Zombies series (1997)inkjet prints of the decapitated heads of idealized males bleeding from their severed necks, set against ethereal polychrome backgroundsare represented in the exhibition. Other works include several significant collage series from 1993 and 1995; collage paintings from the recent Celestial Telegraph series (2008); and a grouping of recent and new dollhouse sculptures, several of which were specifically created for this exhibition.
The title Richard Hawkins: Third Mind recalls the subtitle of his 2007 exhibition at De Appel in Amsterdam, Of two minds simultaneously. While the phrase of two minds typically means to be undecided or unsure, it is not indecision that is at play in Hawkinss practice. Rather, his work celebrates duplicity and ambiguity; Third Mind thus serves as a testament to the artists continued propagation of minds, made up of a steady stream of thoughts, ideas, desires, fantasies, interactions, possibilities, viewpoints, opportunities, opinions, memories, and meanings.
The exhibition title also invokes William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysins 1978 book, The Third Mind, which introduced the concept of the cut-up in literature. Inspired by the history of collage in the visual arts and a natural extension of Gysins own visual collage practice, the cut-up became for the authors an alternative to the either-or proposition and linear declarative sentence structure that shackle Western thought and linguistics. Just as Burroughs and Gysin deconstructed narrative structure through their cut-ups, Hawkins continually reconstructs himself as an artist with a practice that is remarkably unified within constant and fluid shifts among genres, techniques, and mediums.
Whether the apparent subject is ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, 19th-century French Decadent literature, or 1980s teen heartthrobs, Hawkinss work is, at its core, about the pleasure of intense looking and how new ways of seeing both mirror and shape contemporary consciousness and representation.