Andy Diaz Hope’s creative interests are vast — change, perception, evolution, immortality — and his process is communally minded. Not only does he often collaborate with artist Laurel Roth, but he and Roth are also founders and affiliates of two artist compounds, one in San Francisco’s Mission District and the other in the small Northern California town of Sebastopol. Also, Diaz Hope’s original academic pursuit was in engineering, with the intension of earning a PhD in the field; he instead earned his Master’s from Stanford in the university’s Joint Program of Design, a collaborative degree between the engineering and art departments. This is all evident in his current exhibition at Catharine Clark Gallery, which serves as a mini-retrospective that includes new work.
Diaz Hope’s multiple influences and investigations are immediately evident in the variety of the works on exhibit: sculpture, manipulated photography, multimedia work, tapestry. The aesthetics also vary, from ornate to geometric, heavily detailed and colorful to slick, shiny surfaces. This is an artist of breadth who’s not afraid to try something new.
The front gallery opens with the 2008 chandelier “Space Station” and two large tapestries, “Allegory of the Monoceros” (2008) and “Allegory of the Infinite Mortal” (2010), all of which were co-created with Roth. Drawing on earlier investigations of drug culture, the elaborate and beautiful hanging light reveals, upon closer investigation, ornamentation with syringes and gel capsules, along with “dripping” Swarovski crystals. The link is made between the glitzy allure of wealth and glamour and mind-altering substances, all full of empty promises. The detailed and iconographically rich tapestries explore evolution, in “Monoceros” — which was inspired by the late medieval “Unicorn Tapestries” at The Cloisters in New York — and, as the name “Infinite Mortal” suggesti, mortality and infinity.
Moving through the hallway that separates the front and back gallery rooms are two examples of Diaz Hope’s reconstructed photos, “Cerburus” (2007) and “Dealer” (2008), which examine drug use. These meticulous works result from the process of cutting the original image into small pieces in a grid pattern, inserting each piece into a clear receptacle — a gelcap or glass vial — and then reassembling them back into the original image. From a distance, you see the image; up close, it dissolves in pixilation; poignant commentary reinforced by a clever choice of medium. And beautiful to look at.
In the back gallery, we encounter Diaz Hope’s newest creations: angular, multimedia sculptures featuring numerous reflective surfaces. The central work is “Infinite Mortal” (2009; the title is both for the individual work as well as the series these newer pieces are all part of), a large, black twenty-six-sided “cube” — the object summons thoughts of a space capsule— with small peep-holes. Inside we experience a kaleidoscope-like vision of endlessly reflecting mirrors and “illuminated spinning Jesuses.” The other works in the dimly lit room are covered in mirrors and are more irregularly crystalline in shape, resembling icicles or geodes. A few employ various electronics such as lights or video. These shiny, glinting works do bring moments of wow and they are nicely crafted, but they feel lacking in the elegance — indeed they’re rather clunky — depth, and finish of Diaz Hope’s earlier work. They feel transitional, a moment in an evolution.