September 12 to October 31, 2015
September 12 – October 31, 2015
The Anthropocene narrative is popular (20 mentions in Artforum alone since 2014), it is also problematic: reinforcing an anthropocentric world view and sowing seeds of despair and paralysis—as well as letting off the hook the 1st world drivers of climate change or worse legitimizing them by claiming their unavoidability, because fucking the world is the natural propensity of the species. Therefore if every Joe Schmoe is to blame, then no one is. Another irresponsible response, the techno-positivist one, is a Vegas-like doubling down, a calcification and intensification of current practices, "we can ensure our survival by more terra-forming and more geo-engineering." Ironically, this one comes from those who originally coined the word. Hagen's title here then takes the practice of using "schm" as a prefix to express skepticism or derision.
Such critiques inspire Hagen's art and installations as they demonstrate the physical and mental predispositions of vision and aesthetics respectively. In this exhibition the artist embraces the aesthetically taboo: symmetry, rainbows, animal art, combined with the straightforward materiality of industrialized ready-mades of varying degrees of refinement (from titanium sheeting to burlap, and cement to Diet Coke), which are treated to a host of the intensive property changes: degrees of voltage, acidity, heat, viscosity, and gravity, by which Hagen coaxes and pushes his materials to seemingly inexplicable ends. Here too the modular and reconfigurable aspect of his pieces elucidates the limited spatio-temporal expectations for both art objects and viewership. Instead each piece anticipates modification in time, extending their agency through possible reorientations (the paintings), additions/subtractions or restructurings (the sculptures). To view them now is to see them myopically, holding a mirror up to our own limited subjective specificity.
"To Be Titled (Additive Sculpture, Rampart Tile Wall #2), 2012 - 2015", one of three major works in this exhibition, typifies his "fascination with geological form, ranging from the inchoateness of mud to perfect mineral symmetry". It is a 13ft. tall x 16ft wide wall of glazed ceramic tiles, many of them marred by animal tracks. This installation—as well as a concurrent installation at LA><ART—is 3 years in the making. In 2012 Hagen made a mold of a tile from the façade of the abandoned and infamous Rampart police station in Los Angeles. This mold was used to stamp new clay tiles that, while still unfired and wet, domesticated animals (pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens) were allowed to bite, walk, defecate on, and otherwise molest as they saw fit. Hung to cover the entire central wall of the gallery this installation is a mimetic portrait of the art world itself as a domesticating and normalizing arena, a "paternalistic system that infantilizes artists and saps their strengths as they compete for attention". For Hagen, the tracks are not exotic or imbued with magical and transformative powers, though they do invoke an intuitive "archeological imagination" in the viewer. Instead these animal artists' markings (which are both non-human and non-figurative) suggest emancipation of another kind, a conceptual conceit of a democratized, non-species specific Art.
Hagen's hallucinatorily colorful titanium sculptures are actually part and parcel of a larger continuous piece that borrows the language of architectural room dividers. Here linear gradients of color cover interlocking gridded shapes cut from standardized panels of aluminum honeycomb that rise up, self-supporting on pedestals made of his ubiquitous space frame modules (immobilized by a thick cement spray). These sculptures supplant décor for an exploration of the phenomena of color and the psychosocial act of "looking." Hagen's anodizing of titanium, which first made its appearance in January of 2014, the result of a year of research and development, opens up the "black box" of color. Hagen writes:
"By soaking titanium in the phosphoric acid found in Diet Coke and then applying electricity, I am depositing microscopically thin layers of transparent crystals that refract white light, breaking it up into its parent colors. The degree of voltage determines the thickness of the crystals, which in turn determines the degree of refraction and therefore the color you see. The creation of color in the studio without any dyes or pigments is the method here but also the message. These pieces are about seeing to the end of illustrating the viewer's visual perception as limited to the visible colors—which is less than 1 % of the electromagnetic spectrum"
In another room a hanging "screen" bisects the gallery from floor to ceiling. Made from aluminum car rims that have been melted down and poured into improvised drawings executed in sand on the foundry floor, these pierced partitions are lashed together with more anodized titanium wire. Together they become what the artist calls "a lugubrious lingerie, a striptease" tantalizing the imagination, bringing to the fore our innate predisposition and desire for visual satiation-cum-conceptual control. This modular installation epitomizes Hagen's interest in layered "veils", "the narrative which suggests an epiphany that never comes," as to remove one layer is to reveal another like infinitely nested matryoshka dolls.
Since 2009 Hagen's paintings have used paint as a sculptural medium in a process of casting and molding that complicates the virtual nature of image making. Here he continues his use of only white and/or black household acrylic paint, pushing it through the back of sheets of burlap whose open weave allows these works to be composed backwards. The screen-like nature of the burlap ground is repeated in larger patterns rendered on what is to become the face, patterns which also recall the ever present accordion-like security screens of commercial and industrial spaces, with their opening and closing "apertures", allowing sight but not the passage of the body. Hagen's gradient paintings are further articulated here too. Continuous indivisible tones, rendering distinctionless planes that feel immersive as though if one were able to zoom-out a larger pattern would emerge.
Mark Hagen was born in Black Swamp, Virginia in 1972 and received his MFA from CalArts in 2002. Recent exhibitions include Lost Line: Contemporary Art from the Collection, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Made in L.A. 2012, at the Hammer Museum; Painting in Place by LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division); Handful of Dust, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara; TC: Temporary Contemporary, at the Bass Museum of Art; and California Biennial 2008, Orange County Museum of Art. Recent solo exhibitions include a parliament of some things at Almine Rech Gallery, London (2014); Guest Star at Marlborough Chelsea, New York (2014); and Paleo Diet, at China Art Objects, Los Angeles, CA (2013). Hagen's artist book 2013? was published in 2012. Public collections include LACMA and the Hammer Museum. He lives and works in Los Angeles, California.
- Private Area