Ann Hamilton, perhaps best known for large-scale and often site-specific installations, has continued her exploration of communication and sensory experience in her most recent project published by Gemini G.E.L. Her collaboration with the Los Angeles-based workshop produced a diverse body of new works, including three 3- dimensional objects and twenty-five prints, which Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl will exhibit from February 12 through March 28, 2009. A catalogue about her Gemini collaboration with an essay by Hamilton scholar and author, Joan Simon, will be available during the exhibition.
The genesis of the project was Hamilton’s exploration of the formal aspects of ear trumpets. She extensively researched images of this antique hearing device, one invented for receiving sound but interestingly similar in form to the megaphone, a device for projecting sound. Hamilton arrived at the Gemini workshop in 2006 and began by molding her ear-trumpet interpretations out of clay; these were used to create plastic casts, around which cowhide could be shaped. Due to the archival limitations of cowhide, the material was abandoned, and the two finalized trumpets ultimately were cast in plastic resin and hand-finished. Intriguingly, the holes at the narrow ends of the ear trumpets are sealed and prevent the objects from retaining any functional use. As with much of Hamilton’s work, it was important to properly “house” these objects, and a wooden box, formally reminiscent of a school-desk or a music stand, was created for the display of the ear trumpets. A drawer in the base of the box holds a unique grouping of six monoprints, each seductive to the eye and the touch but quite plain in appearance. Aptly named score, this work reflects
Hamilton’s ideas on receiving and producing sound, as well as the abounding possibilities of blankness. Expanding on the monoprints included within the drawer of score, Hamilton created a series of eighteen print editions incorporating etching, lithography and chine-collé. Titled script a through script r and varying in size between 15×19” and 29 1/2×23,” the imagery resembles the blankness of empty grid paper, music sheets or open journal/diary pages.
In 2007, Hamilton returned to Gemini, at which time she began experimenting with fabric to “draw” the imagery for more conventional prints. The ensuing seven large-scale prints are the result of Hamilton stressing silk organza with a wire brush and laying this fabric over photo-sensitized litho plates, thereby transferring “texture” onto the plates. Using four individual pieces of stressed fabric with an overall repetitive pattern, a series of gauge images were printed in colors (blue, black, brown and fuchsia) on crisp white sheets of Lanaquarelle paper. Created by a similar process but with imagery more evocative of orifices, three warp & wefts were also produced, all printed in deep indigo ink. Although strictly two-dimensional, every one of these seven prints has an extremely tactile quality.
With imagery similar to warp & weft, but printing instead onto tissue-thin sheets of gampi paper, Hamilton created small “tiles” that were used in the making of a series of eight unique collages. Collectively entitled legend, each collage measures approximately 81×96” and was uniquely pieced together using either 9×12” or 18×24” prints, much like quilt squares. Once laid out, the “tiles” were mounted onto cotton-duck fabric. Presented like a hand-made quilt, legend is installed simply on the wall with five bulldog paper clips but can be folded like an antique map and housed in a canvas-covered folio box.
Perhaps the most striking object in the exhibition is a slightly oversized coat fabricated from industrial-grade white felt. An obvious homage to Joseph Beuys’ Felt Suit from 1970, shell was actually inspired by a fashion photo sent to the artist by Gemini’s Sidney Felsen. By titling it shell, Hamilton imparts many meanings to an object that has several visual associations. As a coat, it would be worn and function as a person’s “shell;” furthermore, the soft white color reminds the viewer of the hard, conical object one would find on the beach. It is fitting that throughout her two-year collaboration with Gemini, Hamilton continually worked on shell, for in it she brings the seemingly incongruous objects and prints of this body of work into relationship with one another.