Art is Life: Tim Hawkinson at Blum & Poe


I first saw a major Tim Hawkinson exhibition at the Whitney in 2005. The exhibition traced Hawkinson’s steady evolution in meticulously detailed drawings, minute constructions, inflated latex casts, and uncanny mechanical contraptions. Here, I discovered that Tim Hawkinson’s large-scale kinetic and sound producing sculptures made from everyday materials conjure a “world that teeters on the cusp between real and unreal” exemplifying the “profound strangeness of life, matter and time” as stated by curator Lawrence Rinder. You can see why, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what Mr. Hawkinson is creating these days, in his latest exhibition at Blum & Poe.

It is apparent after viewing a couple Hawkinson exhibitions that the subject of his 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. In, Bike (2010), Hawkinson takes large self-portrait photos printed in the negative and collages them together to resemble a fleshy and precarious motorcycle. He reconfigures his body so that the arms become handle bars, legs the spokes, and fingers multiplied and braided together to become tires. Eerie structural correspondences and analogous traits between the body’s composition, its locomotion, its internal cycles, and mass-produced two-wheeled motor vehicles give way to a sense of the self.

completely hilarious: the woman’s dog is a marionette puppet

Hawkinson uses found objects, handcrafted materials and machines to create idiosyncratic works that are intensely personal yet seemingly scientific in the rigorousness of their process. Orrery (2010), a towering eight-foot tall kinetic sculpture of a woman at a spinning wheel atop a platform that is itself made up of a series of rotating concentric circles depicting tire treads. A sculptural collage of mundane materials: plastic bottles, ink-jet prints, twine, string, wire, foam, springs, tape, lead and steel, making Orrery, lends itself to the do-it-yourself aesthetic, ubiquitous in contemporary art. The use of everyday materials in Orrery, endows its with a mysterious sense of familiarity and accessibility.

all photographs © Juan Madrigal

Hawkinson’s work bares striking similarities to his contemporaries, Tom Friedman and Tara Donovan, both of whom share his obsessive craftsmanship and use of common materials. However, what distinguishes Hawkinson’s art from his peers is his mechanical sculpture, capable of producing music, words and expressions. Hawkinson belongs to a group of avant-garde artists that use everything from, toe nails, bottles, old socks, tooth picks, shopping bags, to lead and steel blurring the line between art and life, to make it fluid, and even indistinct.  They believe “art is life,” Allan Kaprow.

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