Continuing through May 7, 2011
The two-person exhibition "Couplings" presents a rich, at times darkly humorous, and well-crafted selection of works by two Bay Area artists, Camilla Newhagen and John Hundt. Both artists present hand-assembled pieces composed of reclaimed (read: old) materials, whose state conveys a sense of history, patina, and emotional weight to the work. The Copenhagen-born Newhagen creates mostly three-dimensional pieces (along with a video) made of darkly colored textiles. Hundt's are two-dimensional, black-and-white and otherwise muted collages made from such media as photos, illustrations, engravings.
Hundt excels in seamless imaginative juxtapositions. The cut-out paper images he assembles - the best of which are the small works punctuated with a deft sense of mystery - flow easily from one to the next, both as regards movement and coloration. The effect is to make his weirdly knitted creations feel somehow real: a female fashion model's head sits atop a horse in "Centaur;" a flower is the head on a naked female body that sits with a colonial-era family in "Presidential Family Portrait;" and an octopus-entangled ship provides the eyes for a mustachioed man, rather like a Mardi-Gras mask, in "Seaman's Tales."
While similar as an artistic voice, the two bodies of work diverge significantly, especially in texture and tone. Where Hundt's tend to the fantastic, Newhagen's lean toward the creepy. And while Hundt is smooth, Newhagen is rough. The difference is most apparent in Newhagen's stuffed works, made of jauntily sewn-together suit parts. In "Dominatrix" (that the artist addresses taboos is a central point to this work) bras filled with polyester batting are almost bursting at the seams, which conveys a bloated discomfort. But they also have an animated quality that makes them endearing; we feel compassion for these over-gorged beings. "Suit Sediments" in particular stops us. Here, a stack of about fifty suits, laid flat and slightly angled at the waist-line, give the impression of a chaise lounge. Elegant, denoting relaxation after hard work, the piece also hints at the number of people who have to "lie down" to provide us with this comfort. It is a nod, then, to the ultimate rest, the result of too much hard work.
With enough similarity to play well with each other, these artists provide enough dissimilarity to also play well off of each other. The result is a deeply satisfying visual and contextual experience that further enhances our read on both of these talented artists.
Jack Fischer Gallery