July 10, 2008

Gary Hume's hospital doors

Twenty years after Gary Hume emerged onto the British art scene with his Door Paintings, Modern Art Oxford presents the first survey of the series. In ArtForum Ana Finel Honigman writes that Hume’s seemingly simple and potentially constrictive conceit (all the paintings are lifesize copies of institutional hospital doors) offers access to a surprisingly wide range of issues. "Modernist conventions, modernism’s (mis)use in institutional settings, the relationship between depressing decor and depression itself, and the questionable link between visual pleasure and its conceptual context. The eighteen paintings in the museum’s light, airy, TARDIS-like space are predominantly ice-cream-colored and easy to like. Hume re-created the frames, windows, and kickplates typical of standard hospital doors, but his paintings’ glossy shine, pleasant palette, and clean surfaces are antithetical to their maudlin and distressing inspiration. Twin circles, placed side by side at the top of many of the panels, resemble vacuous eyes, giving the doors a friendly anthropomorphic appearance, and the simple patterns are soothing and sweet. Wherever else the doors may lead, they make the museum’s interior a delightful destination." Read more.

In The Independent, Tom Lubbock suggests that The Door Paintings aren't just "clever non-paintings, blending the detachment of Pop Art with the rigour of Minimalism, and saying: 'Ha ha, you thought you were going to get something out of me, what with me being a painting hanging on the wall, but you will get nothing, nothing, ha ha.' No, their point-blank refusal of normal painterly satisfactions is not their conclusion. It's their premise. The effect is: blank, yes – but oddly, more than blank. They have powerful presence. There's the sheer reality-effect of their resemblance to doors. It's almost a kind of trompe l'oeil. Their rounds and oblongs, their door-sizedness, presses some simple cognitive button so that you can't help feeling you are looking at, not paintings, but institutional doors themselves. And yet they have more formal activity than you might expect. The colour schemes look bad, almost random, but turn out to be rather subtle and moody. The template shapes are always slightly wonkily drawn. In later ones, other motifs intervene, as a flowing stripe cuts across." Read more.

"Gary Hume: Door Paintings," Modern Art Oxford, Oxford. Through August 31.

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