NEW YORK.- The Whitney presents two decades of work by one of Americas most singular and inventive sculptors in Tim Hawkinson, the artists first major museum survey, opening at the Whitney Museum of American Art February 11, 2005. The show, organized by the Whitney and the Los Angeles County Museum of Artwhere it will be seen after its New York presentationfollows Hawkinsons steady evolution as seen in his meticulously detailed drawings, minute constructions, inflated latex casts, and uncanny mechanical contraptions.
Tim Hawkinsons fantastical works suggest the profound strangeness of life, matter, and time. Interweaving images of bodies and machines at scales that vary from the monumental to the nearly microscopic, Hawkinson conjures a world that teeters on the cusp between the real and unreal, remarks exhibition curator Lawrence Rinder, adjunct curator at the Whitney and dean of graduate studies at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco. From his visually compelling miniature sculptures of birds and bird eggs entirely made from his own fingernail clippings, to his huge, sprawling mechanical wind instruments constructed of inflatable plastic tubes and ducts, Hawkinsons oeuvre is a meditation on nature, machines, the body, and human consciousness.
Best known for his large-scale kinetic and sound-producing sculptures, Hawkinson has also created important works in photography, drawing, printmaking, and painting. Anticipating the do-it-yourself aesthetic that has recently become ubiquitous, he has, since the late-1980s, been using found objects and handcrafted materials and machines to create idiosyncratic works that are intensely personal yet seemingly scientific in the rigorousness of their processes. Virtually all of his works are made with common or store-bought materials endowing his pieces with a mysterious sense of familiarity and accessibility. He brings to these familiar materials, however, a sense of inventiveness that inspires surprise, wonder, and even awe.
The central subject of Hawkinsons work is often his own body, which he inflates, measures, weighs, reflects, and animates. Rather than creating conventional self-portraits, Hawkinson uses his own physical form as a starting point for investigations into material, perception, and time. His analytical approach is often balanced by a suggestion of spirituality, as in Balloon Self-Portrait (1993) consists of a life-size latex cast of the artists body that has been inflated and hovers over the gallery floor like an apparition. In other works, though, Hawkinson reduces his self to a simple machine effect, as in the kinetic sculpture Signature (1993), which ceaselessly inscribes the artists own signature.
Throughout his career, Hawkinson has been interested in varieties of pattern, texture, and form. His early monochrome paintings, for example, created distinctive patterns through the orientation of their brushstrokes, while a more recent animated sound sculpture, Drip (2002), creates complex percussive effects through a series of computer-controlled drops of whiskey. His work also explores variations of texture; for example, he has used aluminum foil both to replicate an elephants wrinkled skin and, in another work, to suggest the almost supernaturally smooth surface of a CD.
Hawkinson has created numerous sculptures that function as machines, many of which have characteristics of robots or automatons. Other pieces serve to record time or create sounds. He has produced an astonishing variety of time-telling sculptures, often using unconventional materials, such as strands of hair caught in a hairbrush for the hands of a clock. Spin Sink (1 Rev./100 Years) (1995) is a 24-foot-long row of interlocking gears, the smallest of which is driven by a whirring toy motor that in turn drives each consecutively larger and more slowly turning gear up to the largest of all, which rotates approximately once every one hundred years. Several of his mechanical works function as eccentric musical instruments, whistling, honking, and clacking to the artists own scores or popular songs. From Feather (1997), a tiny feather fashioned from the artists own hair, to a football field-sized pipe organ, Überorgan (2000), Hawkinsons work combines humor and diligence to make the familiar territories of the body, machinery, and time surprising and new.
About the artist - Tim Hawkinson was born in San Francisco in 1960. He lives and works in Los Angeles. His one-artist exhibitions include shows at MASS MoCA and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington DC's. While Hawkinsons work has appeared in numerous recent group exhibitions, including the 2002 Whitney Biennial, he has not had a comprehensive solo show since the 1996 exhibition, Humongolous: Sculpture and Other Works by Tim Hawkinson, organized by The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, which traveled to Akron Art Museum (1996); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (1996); The Aronoff Center for the Arts, Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati (concurrent exhibition with The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, 199697); Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina (1997); and John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin (1997).
The exhibition catalogue is a thorough investigation of Hawkinsons work. With a lead essay by curator Lawrence Rinder, the catalogue also includes essays by Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Howard Fox, and art critic Doug Harvey, as well as a chronology and bibliography. Each writer investigates the artists influences and historical context are considered as well as the many interlocking themes evident in his extensive oeuvre. The book is distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.
This exhibition was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Major support for this exhibition was provided by Peter Norton and the Peter Norton Family Foundation. Additional support was provided by Tim Nye and the MAT Charitable Foundation. Significant funding was provided by the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Whitney adjunct curator Lawrence Rinder is the shows curator. Following its Whitney presentation, it will be seen at LACMA from June 26 to August 28, 2005, where the installation is being coordinated by Howard N. Fox, curator, modern and contemporary Art, LACMA.