/Tyler Hodgins — Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?
/WHO'S AFRAID OF THE RED, YELLOW, AND BLUE? is an installation that examines the ambivalent relationship I have with colour by creating an environment for the blending of primary colours through chance. A “cleaning” cycle is staged for the digestion and recreation of colour using sand and robot vacuum cleaners.
Barnett Newman’s paintings bearing the same title as my exhibition challenged the purist ideology that Piet Mondrian had assigned to the primary colours, returning them to their expressive role as colours. Newman’s challenge and my response create the framework around which this installation is built.
/TYLER HODGINS lives with his family in Victoria, BC. He has exhibited widely, and his work appears in public and private collections in Canada and the United States. Hodgins works primarily in sculpture, focusing on themes of home, language, repetition, reproduction, and chance.
/AFRAID TO LOOK
The title for this essay refers both to Barnett Newman's 1966 painting Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue? and to painter Philip Taaffe's 1985 riff on the same, entitled We Are Not Afraid. Taaffe's painting can be interpreted as a semantic maneuvering of Newman's colour field from its existential origin (itself a reaction to Mondrian's equivocal, geometric composing) to another outcome: frankly plastic, positively ornamental, but not less serious for surrendering abstract autonomy to decorative sociability. It is context that matters here, and the courage to shift the scale with which an iconic image is read from public to personal, even confessional, that I would like to address to Tyler Hodgins’ choice of motifs and materials.
Everything that gets dusty just becomes surface [...]. Painting tries to create an illusion, the illusion of volume, perspective or light. It promises a kind of enlightenment through colour [...] but dust is the contrary force 2.
Orozco cites the special case of public sculptures, whose default state he sees as “abandoned to dust.” Hodgins’ practice engages an ongoing involvement with public sculpture projects, underscoring the monumentality of the column-like ‘zips’ of Who’s Afraid.... But they also resemble Pop quotations of Newman’s forms, or their revision as Minimalist sculpture. In extending the metaphor of dust as a ‘totalitarian’ leveler, we might conceive of the entropy of dust as relatable to other kinds of entropy, such as the inevitable debasement of monuments as enlightening commons to commercial or industrial spaces, kitsch or cliché 3.
1 Conversation with the artist, August 28th, 2010.
2 Gabriel Orozco, “Gabriel Orozco in Conversation with Benjamin H. D. Buchloh (2004)” translated by Eileen Brockbank, October Files 9 Gabriel Orozco, edited by Yve-Alain Bois (Cambridge: MIT, 2009), 114.
3 Yve-Alain Bois makes this equivocation in addressing the use of cliché in Edward Ruscha’s work, comparing the latter’s trompe l’oeil melting letters to the entropic undoing of articulation—both physical and semantic—in Ruscha’s use of ‘pop’ language. C.f. “Liquid Words,” Formless: A User’s Guide, with Rosalind E. Krauss (New York: Zone Books, 1997), 124-129.
4 Peter Halley, “The Crisis in Geometry,” Arts Magazine (New York, Vol. 58, No. 10, June 1984) http://www.peterhalley.com/.
6 Quoted in Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller,” Illuminations, translated by Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken books, 1968), 93.
/JOHN LUNA is an artist based in Victoria British Columbia whose practice incorporates painting, sculpture, writing and curating. He is an instructor teaching drawing, painting, art history and theory at the University of Victoria and the Vancouver Island School of Art.