A powerful viewpoint for the largest piece, “Hierarchical” (and works related to it), is about 15 feet in from the Seventh Street entrance, looking toward Walnut Street. Three studies for the big work can be seen, one of them silhouetted against one of the great gray columns that permanently define the space. “Hierarchical” itself looms behind, drawing the visitor on.
In “Hierarchical” six tall forms stand together on a platform, the tallest 16-feet high, each increasingly complicated and individual in its upper reaches. The studies and their culminating piece are all constructed of EPS foam covered with iron paint, the paint producing a rough, yellowed/browned, metallic-looking finish. Individual pieces appear weighty but, given their slimness, not necessarily stable. “Hierarchical” elements strain upward, the tallest works in the show, in the tallest space in the room.
Similar materials are put to wholly different use in “Swimmingly.” Wall-mounted, mottled blue-green in color, this work suggests a figure with breast and hip in profile and extended arms. We can sense that the swimmer is having a fine time. A single piece, “Oneiric,” unites the columns of “Hierarchical” with a variation on the color of “Swimmingly.” Here, a pale, gray-green object balances atop a base that echoes the “Hierarchical” pieces.
The title tells us this is a dream-like idea. Does Hawkins mean to say disparate ideas connect more easily in dreams than in actuality? Perhaps. However, “Oneiric,” seems to me the least successful piece in this interesting body of work.
Possibly my favorite here is another of the EPS foam and iron paint pieces but is unlike the others. “Limits: Lost” is wall-mounted, handsome against the tan brick background and has a delicacy the big pieces rightly don’t possess. Almost 6 feet wide, somewhat less than that high, a frame protrudes from the wall about 12 inches and contains several abstract, varyingly shaped pieces that could be figures … or thoughts or memories. They are crowded to the left but give a sense of movement to the right.
All of the above works date from this year and most are part of an ongoing series, with the Weston show the immediate impetus for realizing them now, Hawkins said in an e-mail.
Other works are from earlier. Welcome shafts of color come from three cast aluminum pieces, those that I suggested seem ready to leave their bases given the opportunity. Two of these, “Linear I” and “Linear II,” date from 2008 and are variations on a single idea, one carried out in a splendid green and the other equally fine in blue. Another, “Linear V, Section II” from 2009, is small, deep blue, a clear case of arrested motion. The other 2009 work, “Peripatetic,” is cast bronze and folds in on itself in apparent disregard of its title.
Hawkins thinks about his titles. He calls his show Limits & Boundaries, his artist’s statement explains, to describe his own seeking “to manipulate and understand the boundaries, if there are any, of a visual language.” He adds that his vocabulary of forms “offers multiple associations,” so we can go where we like with our responses and not be out of line. That, of course, is true of art in general.
Meanings lie within the experience and inclinations of the viewer —so are sometimes not at all what the maker intended. It is helpful for an artist to point us in the direction to go when it comes to interpretation, by way of title or explanation, but not necessary for the work to provoke interest and thought in the viewer.
“Some ideas,” Hawkins’ artist statement says, “can easily be made real, others cannot; they can only be rendered in metaphor or illusion.”
Exactly. And that’s why we go on looking at art.
LIMITS & BOUNDARIES is on view at Alice and Harris Weston Art Gallery at the Aronoff Center for the Arts downtown through Dec. 5. Find more information at www.westonartgallery.com.