February 13, 2014

Halvorson and Hawkins: Two kinds of cool


One kind of cool is no-nonsense virtuoso paint-handling that calmly vivifies the world as it slowly turns, of the kind on display in Josephine Halvorson’s exhibition “Facings” at Sikkema Jenkins. At Zach Feuer, Stuart Hawkins thinks more broadly, coolly considering the artificial interface that consumer culture has imposed between us and the simpler life.

[Image at top: Josephine Halvorson, Woodshed (Door), 2013, oil on canvas, 70 x 35 inches]

In a series of intimate paintings depicting details of aging but durable structures around her western Massachusetts home, Halvorson conveys the simple handsomeness of time and wear. In her selection of subjects, such as a concrete building foundation, the wall of a woodshed, and a fire built to heat a room, she nods straightforwardly to a rustic way of life in which nature (a vine) and humanity (graffiti) coexist without great drama. Halvorson makes each painting on site in one go, a process that slows time down, returning to the vantage of an earlier era. Whether to be wistful or to shrug is firmly the viewer’s choice.

 Josephine Halvorson, installation view at Sikkema Jenkins.

 
Josephine Halvorson, Woodshed (Vine), 2013, oil on canvas, 36 x 28 inches.

A few doors down at Zach Feuer, Stuart Hawkins is less guarded about her point of view. Her disposition is arch rather than neutral, her subject not an older, plainer world but the current one in which artifice and consumerism (rather than individuality) reign supreme. Yet there’s no evident anger in the show, titled “Everyone Knows What It Looks Like” – just retro-modern suaveness. The fruit in her still life appears on the brightly-lit shelf of a crowded fridge, a glistening spigot arching over it. A window luminously mediates Hawkins's landscape, the hood of a car her skyscape, a cocktail her seascape. In Portrait of a Woman, a pink exercise ball occludes all but her legs.

Stuart Hawkins, Still Life of Fruit, 2013, oil on canvas, 72 x 54 inches.

Stuart Hawkins, Portrait of a Woman, 2013, oil on canvas, 72 x 54 inches.

It would be too easy to call Halvorson po-faced, or Hawkins wise-ass. Their work is more complementary and convergent than these labels suggest. In mocking art-historical genres, Hawkins also smirks at their purported irrelevance and from a distance enshrines the sturdy, uncluttered world that Halvorson sternly records up close. Even a hipster loves a throwback – perhaps more than most.

 Stuart Hawkins, installation view at Zach Feuer.

"Josephine Halvorson: Facings," Sikkema Jenkins, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through March 1, 2014. The exhibition is accompanied by a full color catalog with an essay by Tom McGrath.

"Stuart Hawkins: Everyone Knows What It Looks Like,” Zach Feuer, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through February 15, 2014.

Related posts:
The importance of language: Josephine Halvorson (2011)

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