By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
In spite of the intervening dry spell, the new work is of a kind with classic Hawkinsonia — obsessively realized misunderstandings that resonate with spiritual, psychological and phenomenological depth. He shows me a predictably amazing array of works in progress for the New York show: a sensory homunculus buckskin outfit for a sensory homunculus scout, a giant woven bamboo sculpture of a Klein bottle that he’s considering mounting on a multiaxle rotational motor “like a giant three-dimensional screen saver,” a 12-foot quilted topological map of the sole of his foot, and a half-dozen more. Chances are these works won’t be seen in L.A. until his next retrospective, but the Getty works are at least as impressive.
“There’s something in the work about pattern recognition — about seeing patterns in different circumstances and reusing them. I’ve talked before about misreading visuals — misinterpreting something and then working with that. Like here” — Hawkinson indicates the fantastic Leviathon, a skeleton that reveals itself at second glance to be made from a sculpted chain of rowing human figures — “mistaking the vertebrae in a brontosaurus in the Natural History Museum in London for Polynesian kayakers. The show’s title, ‘Zoopsia,’ is a word I found that means hallucinations of animals, often when people have the DTs — pink elephants or snakes or insects. It relates to the way I work — the whole misunderstanding thing — the ‘oops’ part.”
The other “Zoopsia” entities include a life-size Bat (“The armature is made from twist ties — the membrane is Radio Shack bags that are heat-shrunk, and the fur is shredded Radio Shack bag”), an enormous Octopus, photo-collaged primarily from images of the artist’s mouth, and, of course, the Dragon. In some ways the most experimental of Hawkinson’s new works, the Dragon is a drippy, impressionistic, gestural ink drawing on a creased-brown-paper spray-foam surface. It verges on abstraction or Zen landscape drawing, and its greatest mystery is that it has no punch line, and no gizmos attached. “I had such a terrible time making the Dragon,” sighs Hawkinson. “I had started it a year ago, and it was one of the first pieces I started in the new studio — and it was just living on that wall the whole time. Peggy [Fogelman, Getty curator] really liked the Octopus, so we decided to do these four animal pieces, and the Dragon wasn’t finished yet and I had to finish it, and I was working it to death and I killed it.
“I think just the pressure of finishing it drove me to destroy it. It was just like mud. And so I did another one and I killed that one. Then there was this manic phase where it wasn’t going to be finished and I was going to put an egg piece in instead, but then I ruined the eggs because they’d turned into walnuts and so I had to make the Dragon work. So I decided to just make a couple of dragons and then cut them up and put them together, so if I didn’t like something, instead of painting over it, I’d just plaster a blank piece of paper over and paint on that. Because with an ink drawing, it has to look fresh — the more you go over it, the more it’s ruined. Then the last thing, I guess, was putting in the drips. A lot of them were just put in at the end. With a drip machine.”
Did I say no gizmos attached? Even at his most experimentally conventional, Hawkinson’s work is unavoidably idiosyncratic. Maybe the institutional-peculiarity-incarnate Getty isn’t such a surprising match after all. With his local gallery affiliations in a state of flux, this Getty thing may be the only chance for a while to see his work in the city where it was made. What better place than the castle on the hill built by the world’s richest outsider? After all, ?J. Paul liked collecting string too.
ZOOPSIA: New Works by Tim Hawkinson | ?The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center | March 6–Sep. 9, 2007