Moti Hasson Gallery is pleased to present a two-person exhibition by New York artists Tommy Hartung and Rashawn Griffin.
A sparse room save for a sketched out set of elements. On one side, a video installation that includes a viewing station complete with a portable screen and chairs. On the other, drawings hung scattershot among several surrounding walls, with floor mats and other debris that lay underfoot. Divided by a set of metal clotheslines that are suspended overhead, the work of Tommy Hartung and Rashawn Griffin could not seem further apart. Seemingly disconnected, both assemble their works in real time, incorporating sculptural components in companion to drawings and video.
Onscreen this time is A Short History of the Canon (2006), a 6-minute color video set up for viewers to experience like lessons from a classroom. Incorporating miniature, unassuming objects, Tommy Hartung’s work at first seems playful. Yet, in their precarious assembly, “meaning is fugitive and everything is contingent” as Tairone Bastien and Candice Madey, co-curators of Beyond the Pale have commented of Hartung’s work at Moti Hasson Gallery’s inaugural Chelsea exhibition.
As in past works, subtitles and a voiceover are also incorporated to give the effect of mock-authority, yet meaning is not espoused but questioned. Here, as Bastien and Madey again qualify, “history and its residual visual metaphors are presented [as] decrepit, faux even” as is any sense that prevailing knowledge exists.
Rashawn Griffin, known for work that employs a “post-black” artistic sensibility, similarly uses the architecture of the gallery as an improvised set, placing thread, ink, collage, paper, and debris gathered from parts of his studio alongside four drawings and two wire clotheslines hung in parallel.
Frequently employing domestic and textile elements such as mattresses, floor mats, sheets, fabric, and thread, as well as fence motifs that reappear throughout his work, Griffin retains, as critic Sarah Valdez notes, the “ability to manipulate cultural idioms freely in order to represent new [...] ideas and realities” and use, in effect, everything in his power to create implicitly, if not overtly political works.
Ultimately, both employ unconventional ways in presenting more traditional formats, and opt for visual cues to acknowledge how the past reshapes the present, a strategy that invariably calls the effect on the future into question.
What critic James Wagner writes of Tommy Hartung also holds true for Griffin: positioned in opposition to prevailing or underrepresented points of view, both build “small sets from the detritus of a world either on the make or disintegrating as we speak.”
Tommy Hartung received his MFA from Columbia University in 2006. He has participated in several group exhibitions including Max Protetch Gallery, New York; Southfirst, Brooklyn; Black and White Gallery, New York; Fredric Snitzer Gallery, New York; and The Living Room, Miami, and has been featured in The Village Voice and Jameswagner.com among other publications. His first solo exhibition at Moti Hasson Gallery will take place in February, 2008.
Rashawn Griffin received his MFA from Yale University in 2005. His work was featured in the acclaimed exhibition, Frequency at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2006), and in international group and solo exhibitions at Mary Boone Gallery, New York; Newman Popiashvili Gallery, New York; Triple Candie, New York; and Galerie Eva Winkeler, Frankfurt, among other venues. His work has been featured in Artforum, Art in America, frieze, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.