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Hillerbrand + Magsamen
Heidi Vaughan Fine Art
Recommendation by Donna Tennant

Hillerbrand+Magsamen, "A Device to Be Heard," 2019, archival inkjet print, 9 x 9"

Continuing through March 29, 2020

Stephan Hillerbrand and Mary Magsamen met as graduate students in the sculpture program at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1994, married in 2001 and lived in New York for nine years. But it wasn’t until they moved to the Houston suburbs that they figured out their aesthetic process. They call their current interdisciplinary practice, which involves video, photography, installation and performance, "suburban fluxus." Early attempts at collaboration failed, and it wasn’t until they involved their children Maddie and Emmett, and even the family dog, that they found their groove. This show is a continuation of the theme from their previous exhibition, titled “The Devices Project.” The term “devices” in this context refers to objects they create to help people exercise control over their lives. These imaginative devices address with humor and irony the tasks of everyday life, which include “balancing a budget,” “negotiating with a teenager,” “awakening creativity,” “growing old without fear” and “rearranging magnetic fields.”

The centerpiece of the show is a bedazzled Little Tykes car presented on a rotating stand. Smaller sculptures and photographs of assemblages created from children’s toys, kitchen utensils, metal garbage cans, vacuum cleaner hoses, fly swatters and other household objects address family dynamics, American consumerism and privilege. Hillerbrand and Magsamen cite the Fluxus movement of the 1960s and 1970s as a major influence, with its experimental art performances and emphasis on the artistic process rather than the finished product. Like their predecessors, they work with everyday objects, deconstructing and recombining them with frequently startling results. Humor is an important element in their work. “A Device to be Heard,” for example, is a photograph of the couple talking to one another through a flexible mylar intake/exhaust duct. “A Device for Catching Worried Stars” is a black glove embroidered with rhinestone stars and mounted on a stand.

“Play is at the source of our work, so we have fun in the studio,” the artists state. “There is always a project in progress in our house.” In the past they have sawed their sofa into two pieces and taped it back together, built a rocket in their backyard with which they simulated a family trip into outer space, and constructed mandalas throughout the house using domestic items. With their seemingly unlimited imagination and inventiveness, they continue to combine and transform household objects into irresistible works of art.

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