RVW | Ann Hamilton: a reading
Ann Hamilton: a reading
By Iris Williamson, MA CT+CR ’14
Ann Hamilton’s work has a presence and loveliness that permeates. a reading, her exhibition at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, is a survey of objects mined from her previous investigations among which a visitor can walk and breathe in the narratives of the past. a reading gathers together work from the last 20 years of Hamilton’s career, examining the relationships between reading, writing, drawing, the senses, the movement of the line, and the movement of the thread. In each project, Hamilton amplifies subtle actions and feelings that illustrate moments or evidence of connection: the line, the thread, the word, the touch. In a reading, the visitor can experience the threads that connect her projects about connection to each other.
Upon entering the exhibition, viewers are welcomed by large photographic prints of the fore-edges of books from Hamilton’s 2009 installation, The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia 1860 – 1989, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Scans of the sides of these books, titled Human Carriage, are arranged in a cluster, and suggest bright swatches of paint against a black background. The books in the prints were also used as weights in the Guggenheim exhibition; Hamilton revisits that motif in a reading and includes a hanging book among the pieces elsewhere in the show.
Throughout the expanse of the gallery, archives of Hamilton’s past projects are carefully exhibited as relics. A collar made from slices of paperback books is displayed like an Elizabethan artifact. Scrolls from her monumental installation at the Park Avenue Armory in New York last year, the event of a thread, are placed in the exhibition as though they were ghosts of a lost civilization. Her wound ball of text, lineament – book/ball, which viewers can gaze upon in the way one examines a historical artifact. Her concordance newspaper pieces from stylus feel like documents from a past time, in which she alphabetizes the minor words in the text such as “the” and “and” and aligns the words as the center spine of the text.
Carried over from stylus, Hamilton exhibits exaggeratedly large hands made of paper. She juxtaposes a hand hanging from a wire and a book-weight in near-away, referencing the hand that holds and the silence of reading. She also includes the video pieces clapclap and follow; the former shows Hamilton’s gloved paper hands clapping in split screens, and the latter shows the hands moving in a spinning motion and drawing circles.
Hamilton mimics this spinning in her print series ELOCUTION, which is a reorganization of the essay Circles by Ralph Waldo Emerson in the style of circular diagrams. Circles are a theme in Hamilton’s work, illustrating unending cycles and reinforcing Gaston Bachelard’s Phenomenology of Roundness, which posits that everything can exist within the circle—it is complete—and that the circle represents the never-ending process of producing change upon a thing, and that thing reciprocally changing us.
This survey of Ann Hamilton’s career is a small, yet beautiful illustration of the breadth of her work and a unique opportunity to see how her work communicates with itself. Her investigation into themes of text and textile and of feeling and connection feels calming and meditative. Though the work is a fragmented depiction of her artistic career, a reading reveals that Hamilton’s chosen vocabulary places high value on the smallest line, touch, word, and gesture.
a reading, by Ann Hamilton, is on view at Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland, OR, through January 11, 2014.