Monday, January 17, 2011

Patrick Hill, Clumsy Angels, at Bortolami

Patrick Hill, Spread, 2011. Wood, dye, one-way mirror, white Carrara marble, 42 x 58 x 53 in. Photos: 16 Miles [more]

New Yorkers last saw a sculpture by Los Angeles artist Patrick Hill this past summer, in Gladstone's "Mass Ornament" group show. Made of two pink-and-yellow legs cut from Carrara marble and an upright circle of glass, all held together with a thin black rod, the work looked like a person diving headfirst through the concrete floor, and suggested a dramatic, overt move toward figuration in Hill's work.

The artist's debut show at Bortolami in 2007, in comparison, was rigorously abstract: a delicate spinning mobile dangled various shapes from the gallery's ceiling and angular geometric stabiles, made of steel, glass, and stone, stood throughout the space. Likewise, a sculpture in the 2008 Whitney Biennial featured three similar panels — concrete and glass this time — propped up on a series of wood beams that could have once been a Richard Nonas floor piece. In SculptureCenter's 2010 "Leopards in the Temple," a glass panel leaned dangerously off a concrete block, held in place only by a swath of canvas.

Hill's art has changed a lot since then. For his sophomore show at Bortolami, which opened on Thursday night to a large crowd standing far from the gallery's doors, and the ice-cold air outside, Hill has thrown himself into the task of representing the body. His Carrara limbs appear in every sculpture, held in various balletic poses by wooden pegs and those Nonas blocks, which he has smartly dyed in effervescent pinks, yellows, and blues, leaving the marble gloriously untouched. They carry apt titles like Ballerina and Plié (all works 2011).

Patrick Hill, Clusterfuck, 2011. Wood, dye, one-way mirror, glass, white Carrara marble, 46 x 120 x 120 in.

A sense of bodily presence is hiding in even the most restrained, spare, and rigid sculpture. Even in Hill's earlier work, it is there. Those three panels in the Biennial piece could be people, and the falling glass at SculptureCenter could be a person bowing. But here he welcomes the figure into his structures with absolute glee. Besides ballerinas, he has strippers — the agile Dancer (pole), for instance — and, according to the show's press release, sex workers, in Spread and Clusterfuck. As one walks around the latter, marble legs, arms, and pelvises, all prostrate, careen around an array of angled mirrors and crash into one another. Hill has torn down the walls of a Dan Graham pavilion and transformed it into a sex club. For now, these unapologetically hedonistic sculptures carry the thrill of an artist splicing together a handful of very good ideas very cleverly. Whether that pleasure endures is, of course, another matter.

As people exited through the doors of Bortolami, some moved briskly down West 20th Street to Anton Kern, braving the frigid winds blowing off the Hudson. The gallery's windows had been blacked out and its lights darkened. Inside, a sublime new Marcel Odenbach video that explores a monument for the Lublin Concentration Camp in haunting detail was on loop in the gallery's main space. I watched the 16-minute piece and then exited, leaving behind many people who had not moved or talked in the entire time I was there.

Updated (01/22): More photos of Hill's work, from Anaba

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